Having a flawless NFL debut is a good way to jumpstart a competition for a rookie, and that is what seventh-round draft pick Pressley Harvin III did for the Pittsburgh Steelers last night. He had the opportunity to punt throughout the night on Friday against the Dallas Cowboys, and he turned in what head coach Mike Tomlin will inevitably describe as a ‘varsity’ performance.
He punted three times for 134 total yards, averaging 44.7 yards per punt late into the fourth quarter, and finished with a 45.8-yard average. Those are fine numbers in themselves, but context makes them look much better. All of his first three punts landed inside the 20-yard line, giving Dallas a starting position of no better than the 11, in fact. His second punt bounced at the one, and was downed there. You can’t get better than that.
Harvin’s third punt, coming early in the fourth quarter, was his longest, traveling 51 yards before being marked out of bounds, at the Cowboys’ 11-yard line. These are the sorts of things that you can see on his college tape, but the ability to see it consistently is the difference between having a job and looking for one.
One of the better punters in recent years, Pat McAfee, took notice of the big man’s performance, posting a video on Twitter pumping up what he saw from the rookie off of his two punts in the first half and calling him “the starter in the clubhouse”.
That is because he is in a training camp competition with Jordan Berry, who has been the Steelers’ primary punter since 2015. It is notable, though, that they did let him go last year after the initial 53-man roster was set. They signed veteran Dustin Colquitt to replace him, but when he proved inadequate, they brought Berry back.
“What. A. Perfect. Ball”, he said of Harvin’s second punt, downed at the one. “You nailed it, pal. That’s gorgeous. Let’s go, Pressley! This kid’s taking his opportunity and absolutely dominating”.
Working on a relatively short field, there’s hardly anything more that one could have asked from Harvin, pinning the Cowboys back at or inside of their own 11-yard line three times. It wasn’t until under six minutes left in the game that he had a chance to really boot one. He sent that bouncing, which ricocheted off of the returner and was recovered by the Steelers, by Anthony Johnson, who himself fumbled on offense.
Officially, it went down as a 49-yard punt to the 25-yard line, kicked from Pittsburgh’s 26, muffed and recovered by Johnson at the 25. It wasn’t the true booming kick that he is capable of, but that’s not what the Steelers have traditionally prioritized on punting units, and you can’t argue with the results.