Steelers Notebook: Berger glad he survived first battle for a job
Saturday, September 06, 2008
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mitch Berger is glad he had to wait 14 years to be involved in a legitimate competition to win a punting job. He also is glad he survived the competition.
Berger, 36, was chosen over Paul Ernster to be the Steelers' punter this season, replacing injured Daniel Sepulveda, even though he punted only six times in the preseason -- eight fewer than Ernster.
"I would have been concerned if they were bad punts," said Berger, who begins his 13th NFL season with his seventh team, "but I had decent punts."
Berger averaged 46.3 yards on six punts (with a long of 49 yards), despite punting in just two preseason games after being signed Aug. 11. Ernster had 14 punts, including seven in the preseason opener, and averaged 41.9 yards with a long of 55 yards.
Ernster's fate likely was sealed when he had punts of 33 and 22 yards in the preseason finale against Carolina.
"This is the first time I ever competed for a job," said Berger, who appeared in five games last season with the Arizona Cardinals. "All the other times the job was mine. I guess it's good that it took me this long to compete for a job."
Texans' Davis special
The Steelers won't have to wait long to see how their kick-coverage unit responds after its poor performance last year, when it allowed three kick returns of 90 yards or longer.
The Texans' Andre Davis tied for the NFL lead with three kick returns for touchdowns last season, including two in Houston's final game.
"Andre has a lot of speed, and, if we find a way to get him a couple of cracks, then he is very dangerous as far as going the distance," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We kind of go as our special teams go in a lot of ways. We have done a pretty good job around here on special teams."
The Texans are hoping wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Ahman Green can stay healthy after each player had his 2007 season shortened by injuries.
Johnson had 853 receiving yards and eight touchdowns before he had his season ended by a knee injury in Week 9. Green, a four-time Pro Bowler who was acquired in free agency from the Green Bay Packers, injured a knee in Week 3 and appeared in only six games, carrying just 70 times for 250 yards.
Green, 31, did not play in the preseason this year after injuring his groin in training camp. Tomorrow will be his first appearance.
"He could have come back and played at the end of the preseason, but I did not think that that was the most important thing," Kubiak said. "The most important thing was getting him healthy. He has been practicing now for two weeks, and this will be his first time out this year. But, at least, we got him, and he is ready to go."
Because new tight end Sean McHugh will not play, offensive tackle Max Starks is expected to serve as the third tight end. ... The Steelers have won their past five season openers, including in Houston in 2005. ... Former Steelers tight end Mark Bruener enters his 14th season and is the Texans' backup tight end. Bruener was a the Steelers' No. 1 pick in 1995. Another former Steelers draft choice, Texans nose tackle Jeff Zgonina, enters his 16th season.
First published on September 6, 2008 at 12:12 am