Wednesday, March 07, 2007


“Now on the clock in the 2007 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers. And, with their sixth-round pick in the 2007 NFL draft, the Steelers select Andy Lee, punter, University of Pittsburgh and San Francisco 49ers.”

The Steelers essentially are giving the 49ers their sixth-round pick in April’s draft for the rights to sign Andy Lee, the Niners’ punter of the last three seasons.

The Steelers must have figured they’d take a young guy (Lee is only 24) with NFL experience (three years already) rather than take a chance on an unknown commodity or, worse, the known commodity that is the Steelers’ incumbent punter, 37-year-old Chris Gardocki, whose performance last year was abysmal.

Is Lee really an improvement, though? Almost certainly, and nearly anybody would be. How much of an improvement, though? Hard to say, but don’t expect too much.

Lee’s gross average per kick was significantly better: nearly three yards better than Gardocki’s (44.1 vs. 41.3) – but their net average, respectively, was about the same (36.8 vs. 36.7). We have no idea about Lee’s hang time.

Money? Terms of the Steelers’ offer to Lee have yet to be made public. The money is probably close to what Gardocki was to make in 2007 – about $1 million a year – but presumably with a longer contract, say, three years instead of one.

In trying to wrap our arms around this development … and let’s face it, the Steelers’ punting game was a serious sore spot last year … here’s’ some data n’ datta, facts and thoughts:

  • The 49ers had tendered Lee a one-year, $850,000 qualifying offer. Because he’s a restricted free agent, any NFL team could better that offer and, if accepted, the 49ers would receive that team’s 6th-round draft pick in April.
  • That’s because the 49ers used a sixth-round choice to draft Lee in 2003.
  • Under NFL rules, the 49ers have until Tuesday to match the Steeler’s offer or waive that right and receive a sixth-round draft choice, which is what they used to draft Lee in 2003.
  • The 40ers will waive their rights to Lee.
  • The Steelers will give up a sixth-round draft pick and use Lee as their new punter.
  • Still, Lee’s performance last year, in terms of net average, was only nominally better than Gardocki’s:
    • Lee averaged 44.8 yards a punt last season; 36.8 net.
    • Gardocki averaged 41.3 gross; 36.7 net.

Then there’s this bullshit statement from Lee’s agent, Eddie Edwards, who was quoted in today’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"In my estimation, he punted in the most difficult stadium in the NFL," said Edwards, who has a Pittsburgh office. "In (San Francisco’s) Monster Park, the wind is unreal. Look at his stats: He was seventh overall in the NFL [in gross average]. You put him in a stadium with a neutral weather pattern, he could have been tops."

Gotta call bullshit on that statement. After all, since when does Heinz Field have a neutral weather pattern??!!!

Lee will be punting at Heinz Field, not Heinz Hall.

Ask Josh Miller, Jeff Reed, Tommy Maddox, Ben Roethlisberger and the thousands of season ticket holders in the 600 level whether Heinz Field has a “neutral weather pattern” … or if it has bitter, swirling winds, especially in November, December and January.

Speaking of which, isn’t it fair to speculate that Lee also benefited from playing six games a season on the road in the relatively benign conditions of the NFC West? … where San Francisco’s opponents include the Arizona Cardinals (paradise), the Seattle Seahawks (generally mild weather) and the St. Louis Rams (dome stadium). By contrast, the Steelers’ opponents in the wintry AFC North include the Cleveland Browns (hell), Cincinnati Bengals (hell) and Baltimore Ravens (hell).

Granted, Lee has experience punting at Heinz Field during his days at Pitt, and his experience punting in San Francisco’s wind should not be totally discounted.

Still. Are the Steelers really making an improvement, especially when you factor in money and the forfeiture of a sixth-round draft choice? Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round. We’ll see.

There’s one other connection for Lee in Pittsburgh, and that is new special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, who coached Lee when Ligashesky was the special teams coach at Pitt. Clearly, the Steelers wouldn’t have signed Lee without Ligashesky’s endorsement. Let’s hope he knows what he’s talking about, but we have a feeling he’s a goofball.

Finally, there’s another bullshit statement from Lee’s agent, again courtesy of the Post-Gazette, but what else do you expect from agents?

“Edwards said he does not know if the 49ers will match the offer and that Lee was not unhappy in San Francisco other than not being able to reach a long-term contract before he became a restricted free agent March 2. The 49ers have changed special teams coaches this year.

"San Francisco is not displeased with his performance. It was based upon the uncertainty with a new guy (a new special teams coach) coming in and how he fit in with the system."

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls gotta call bullshit on that one, too: “How he’ll fit in with the system”???!! Hey. He’s a friggin’ punter. Get rid of the ball, don’t let it get blocked, get good hang time, punt toward the sidelines or pin it inside the 20, and give your gunners a chance to down the ball or make a tackle.

It’s not rocket science. It only seems that way to the likes of Bob Ligashesky.


Yikes! Reportage in the Bay Area is that the Steelers offer to Lee is six years, $7.1 million (an average of about $1.183 million per year).

Fan Forum in the San Jose Mercury News: Keep Andy Lee! And more of the same … plus this comment from the 49ers Fan Forum in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I would DEFINTELY match or beat Pittsburghs offer for Lee. He has been a great punter and allowed the 49ers to stay in all their wins and especially games with Seattle and Denver. To not sign him would be silly with a punter who can get a suspect defense out of trouble and help them own field position ...a good punter gives the defense hope and improves the offense's chance of success. Punters are usually highly under valued.”

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