The under-the-radar signing for the Steelers this offseason came two days after the draft ended and barely made a ripple in the news cycle. But the acquisition of Brian Moorman, a two-time Pro-Bowler and a member of the NFL all-decade team for the 2000s might garner more attention later this summer if he makes the 53-man roster.
Who is Brian Moorman?
He was one of the best punters in the NFL before being unceremoniously released by the Buffalo Bills three games into last season. He was signed by the Steelers to compete with second-year punter Drew Butler, who made the team as a rookie last season.
Moorman, 37, made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006 and was recognized as the best punter of that decade by the NFL. He spent 11 seasons in Buffalo before the Bills signed Shawn Powell to replace him after he had a net average of 32.7 yards per punt in the first three games last season.
"It was a bit of a shock," Moorman said of his release by the Bills. "I think anyone would be shocked if someone tries to pull the rug out from under you. That's in the past. I'm extremely confident in what I can do and my abilities and that that was an anomaly. I'm not concerned with the past anymore. I'm just looking forward to the future."
Moorman finished last season with Dallas, but he did not re-sign with the Cowboys, choosing instead to come to the Steelers, where he is well-acquainted with two members of the coaching staff.
New special teams coach Danny Smith spent three seasons with Moorman in Buffalo when Smith coached special teams there from 2001-03. He also got to know Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau when LeBeau coached the Bills defense in 2003.
NFL teams often bring two punters to training camp to have an extra leg available. But they don't sign veterans, especially those with Moorman's credentials, with that purpose in mind. Moorman was brought in to challenge Butler, who struggled at times in his first NFL season after earning All-American status at the University of Georgia.
"Come in, and we'll have a competition and we'll see where that takes us," is what Moorman was told by Smith and coach Mike Tomlin when he signed.
"Drew did a good job last year," Moorman said. "He's a good punter. But to me, it's more about competition with myself than anything else. I don't have anything against Drew. I think he'd say the same thing. We'll come out here, do our best and let the chips fall where they may."
Butler averaged 43.8 yards per punt last season and had a 37.8 net average. Moorman was slightly better with a 44.8 average and a 38.9 yard net average with the Cowboys.
"I fully expected competition," Butler said. "Everyone competes at every position. To bring in a guy like Brian, his resume speaks for itself. I'm excited to compete.
"There's always a standard for your second season and there's a lot of room for improvement. I added some pounds and got stronger in the weight room. I worked on my kicking technique and form. I feel pretty good where I am now. My offseason went well, and I look forward to taking some momentum into camp."
Moorman likes the familiarity with Smith, but one other reason he chose the Steelers was their tradition. In 13 years in the NFL, Moorman has never been on a team that made the playoffs. He figured those chances increased dramatically by signing with the Steelers.
"It's one of the big reasons I chose the Steelers," Moorman said. "I have a deep belief that last year was definitely an anomaly with this organization. I've come from a team and played a long time when we weren't too terribly upset with 8-8. I promise you that they are here.
"To have an opportunity to play in the playoffs was a big selling point to me, to be a part of this. I've been with coach LeBeau before. I know what he brings to the table. Every year, his defense is awesome.
"I got to see that first-hand in Buffalo. And to see what he has done here since ... if I can be a part of that field position to help him, I'd like to do that. That would be a good way to finish my career."
First, he has to prove he still has a lively leg. He and Butler will compete for the next month during OTAs and in training camp.
Moorman is anxious to prove he can still punt.
"My body feels great," he said. "I feel like I'm hitting the ball well. I do my best to stay in shape and do the things it takes to be ready and prepared for a season in the NFL. I love this game. I love to kick footballs. It's a hobby. It's not just a job to me.
"I love coming out here and being part of a team and part of a team like this with a great group of guys, guys I've played against for a long time and I've seen be successful. I just love coming out here, banging the ball around and doing my part."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1230 and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published May 25, 2013 4:00 AM