If you have followed the Pittsburgh Steelers closely this past three seasons and have read Ed Bouchette’s work in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, you’ve probably encountered the veteran columnist bemoan the Steelers decision to use a fourth round draft pick in 2008 on a punter. Daniel Sepulveda, a Baylor grad who’s endeared himself to fans with his willingness to sign autographs and propensity to seek out contact on punt coverage, has been unable to stay healthy in his three seasons in Pittsburgh. Twice he’s been lost for the year with ACL tears in his battered and bruised right knee knees, validating Bouchette’s critique of expending such a high draft pick on a punter.
Fully healthy once again, Sepuvlveda is not guaranteed to win the starting punting duties for the Steelers in 2011. He doesn’t mind having to work for the job though:
Daniel Sepulveda was minding his own business, chowing down on his pregame meal before the Pittsburgh Steelers played at Washington two weeks when he looked up at the television screen.
“They’re saying Coach (Mike) Tomlin has 22 returning starters and the only competition battle is at punter and I’m saying, ‘Alright, sounds good,’” Sepulveda said with a laugh.
His competition? Jeremy Kapinos, who filled in adequately when Sepulveda went down late last season. So far through two preseason games, both punters have mirrored each other’s performance. Both have five punts heading into the third preseason game, with Kapinos (48.6) just barely besting Sepulveda (46.6) in yards per punt.
Drawing clear for either player has been difficult, which puts the two punters in an unusual situation. They may be the only players on the team who don’t want the Steelers to score on every possession. At least in the preseason anyway.
“In the regular season when you don’t punt, that’s great,” Sepulveda said. “In the preseason when you don’t punt, it’s no fun.”
Sepulveda’s booming 62 yard punt in the preseason opener against Washington is probably the type of punt that will ultimately win him the job. His ceiling is higher than Kapinos. The former Green Bay Packers punter was one of the league’s worst rated punters prior to joining Pittsburgh, but as Sepulveda noted, Kapinos’ solid play has forced him to focus on improving every day just to fight for his job. That’s not been the case for Sepulveda prior to this year.
The two will next have their opportunity to state their case for the job when the Steelers host the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field on Saturday night.
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