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Steelers punter Berry quietly playing important role

| Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, 8:09 a.m.
Steelers punter Jordan Berry (4) punts during the second half of a preseason game against the Bills on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Steelers punter Jordan Berry knows the football almost feels like a rock when he tries to kick in cold weather.

But he has no interest in checking the forecast in Denver before the AFC divisional playoff game Sunday against the Broncos, even though the advantage kickers and punters gain in Denver's thin air will be negated by the cold, a predicted low of 24 degrees.

“I'll worry about it when I get there,” he said.

For Berry, assuming an important role on a team two victories from the Super Bowl is where his focus belongs.

After all, before he won his first NFL job nine months ago during a tryout with Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith, he had another job — overnight cook at McDonald's in Melbourne, Australia.

“I wasn't a big fan of working that time of night,” he said.

Back in the U.S. with a better-paying job, Berry has found his niche with the Steelers, helping out the defense by placing 28 of his 59 punts (47.5 percent) inside the 20-yard line — a team record since the statistic was first tracked in 1976. He recorded six inside the 20 against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 12, a first for a Steelers punter since Josh Miller did it against the Cincinnati Bengals at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000.

Berry has played Australian rules football, a game that places a premium on players' athleticism because it's played on a field that is roughly 200 yards long, he said.

“There's a lot of running. There's not a ton of contact because the field is big,” he said, “but when there is contact it can get pretty rough.”

He has only one tackle with the Steelers, but Smith asks him to perform more important tasks. He holds for kicker Chris Boswell and is responsible for ensuring players line up correctly and on time for field-goal and conversion attempts.

Catching long snaps sounds like a simple, mindless task, but it's one Berry doesn't take for granted.

“You have to focus on making sure you catch the ball,” he said. “As soon as you don't think about it, that's when the problems occur.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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