Punter Mitch Berger traveled a long and winding road to his first Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers are Berger’s ninth team during 15 seasons in the NFL.
And the 36-year-old Canadian actually had some good fortune to make it this far with the team. The only reason Berger landed the punting job in the preseason was because the regular punter, Daniel Sepulveda, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Then, in October, Berger began experiencing hamstring problems. The Steelers wanted to place him on their injured-reserve list, which would have made him ineligible to play the rest of the season, but he convinced them instead to release him so he could rehabilitate himself and try to return to the team. His risky plan worked because after recovering, the Steelers were so unhappy with his replacement, Paul Ernster, they gladly re-signed Berger.
In 2007, Berger was with the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers’ opponent in Super Bowl XLIII. Before this season, the closest Berger came to reaching the Super Bowl was being with teams that lost in the NFC Championship Game: 1998, with the Minnesota Vikings against the Atlanta Falcons; 2000 with Minnesota against the New York Giants; and 2006, with the New Orleans Saints, although he was injured.
“Sometimes,” Berger said, “I wake up and forget which team I’m playing for.”
But the Steelers are the only one to give him a chance to play in the Super Bowl. For that, Berger is adding, just for Super Sunday, a menu item named after him at a restaurant he co-owns in his hometown of Vancouver: The Super Mitch Berger, which consists of two 18-ounce ground-beef patties, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, Canadian bacon and a special sauce called Mitch’s Mayo.