Make no mistake, Pressley Harvin III was drafted to punt. If he can’t do that well, he won’t win the job this summer. But it’s not too often you can also mention a punter’s ability to throw the football. And Harvin III might already be one of the best passing punters in the NFL.
A shot put star in high school, Harvin III got the chance to show off his arm three times at Georgia Tech. Two his passes fell incomplete. But the other was a beauty, a 41-yard dime for a touchdown back in 2019.
Talking with Steelers reporters today after rookie minicamp, Harvin III discussed his ability to throw the ball.
“I used to love throwing the ball when I first started football,” he said in a Zoom call provided by the team. “Growing up, playing offensive line in Pee Wee football I never got the chance to throw the ball. But I always liked to. So when I got the opportunity up in college, I made myself fully aware that I could throw. I kept telling my coaches, whenever you want to make that opportunity to have throwing fakes, I would like to try it. Because usually you would have the upback throw the ball. I felt comfortable enough to be able to do it. That throw against Miami back in 2019 was the highlight of it.”
Down 14-7 late in the first quarter against the Hurricanes, Georgia Tech called for Harvin to fake the punt and throw the ball. And he put it on the money for the score, hitting the right gunner in stride just before the punt returner could close on the football.
The Yellow Jackets would go on to win the game 28-21 in overtime. Harvin had a great day with his leg too, averaging 45.5 yards per punt on six attempts.
“Just shows I’m versatile,” Harvin went on to say. “I’m a bigger dude, I’ve got a strong leg. But whenever a fake needs to happen, I can execute it the best I can.”
It’s been years since the Steelers have asked a punter to throw the football. The last instance came in 2014 with Brad Wing, who was promptly picked off in a Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. No Steelers’ punter has completed a fake punt since Mat McBriar in 2013. None have thrown a touchdown since Josh Miller hit Chris Hope for an 81-yard score back in 2003.
Jordan Berry has served as the team’s punter since 2015. An Aussie Rules footballer, he’s been no threat to throw the football. In fact, his lone fake “pass” was actually a kick at Eastern Kentucky. But in the NFL, he’s extremely limited as a fake punt threat.
For that talent of Harvin’s to become relevant, he’ll have to beat out Berry for the starting job with a nice showing this summer. That means showing consistency and the ability to pin opponents inside the 20, two areas where he did struggle a bit in school. But if he becomes the team’s starting punter, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Steelers throw the ball once or twice this season. At the least, opposing special teams coordinators will have to prepare to defend it.