But there is plenty to be excited about for next season. The core of the team is under contract for next season and the Steelers will open the 2005 season as one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
This will be the final position-by-position look at the Steelers
Today: The specialists.
One of the more curious moves of the last offseason was the
Steelers' release of punter Josh Miller and the signing of Chris Gardocki to take his place.
Gardocki and Miller are the same age and had nearly the same
punting statistics throughout their lengthy NFL careers. Yet the
Steelers felt the need to release Miller, eating the remainder of
his signing bonus, and sign Gardocki to a contract worth more
than a $1 million per season.
After a season of watching Gardocki punt, it wasn't hard to see
why the Steelers felt the need for a change. Though Gardocki no
longer has a booming leg, he is very consistent with his kicks.
And in more than 1,000 career punts, he's never had one
Miller, meanwhile, was a boom and bust-type kicker, booting one
ball 60 yards and hitting the next one 35. In addition, he had had
a punt blocked in each of his final three seasons with the
While Gardocki was, indeed an upgrade, Miller had the last
laugh, hooking on with the New England Patriots soon after his
release by the Steelers. He now owns a Super Bowl ring - or at
least he will when the Patriots receive theirs.
Placekicker Jeff Reed began the 2004 season with a lot to prove.
Reed's 2003 campaign, his first full season in the NFL, was
less than spectacular, causing some to wonder if he was the
long-term answer to the team's placekicking problems.
Reed put those doubts to rest with an outstanding 2004 season,
one in which he finished with 21 consecutive made field goals.
But the Steelers face a dilemma with Reed, who is a restricted
free agent. If they don't tender Reed a decent offer, they stand a
good chance of losing him.
Since he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent, if
the Steelers offer Reed a low tender, he could sign elsewhere
for a contract the Steelers might be unwilling to match and they
would receive nothing in return.
They could offer him a higher tender and thus secure more hope
of retaining him, but that would also lock him in at a much higher
salary for 2005.
Their best bet would be to sign him to a new contract before he
hits the free agent market, something Reed may not want to do if
he thinks he can get a better deal somewhere else.
Longsnapper Mike Schneck has long been an object of scorn for
Steelers fans. Many hate keeping a player around who does
nothing but snap the ball on punts, field goals and extra points.
But year-after-year Schneck has been able to hold off
challengers and stick with the team.
Schneck is signed for the 2005 season and there's no reason to
believe he'll be replaced, even though the Steelers will likely
bring yet another challenger to training camp in July.
Breaking down the Steelers/The specialists
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