Now that training camp has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: P Pressley Harvin III
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The rookie seventh-round draft pick won what was arguably the most hotly-contested position battle during training camp, unseating incumbent punter Jordan Berry.
It may have been accepted as a foregone conclusion for the past four months, but rookie punter Pressley Harvin III very much had to earn his roster spot over Jordan Berry, who had been the Steelers’ punter for the past six seasons.
Special teams coordinator Danny Smith made it very clear that he saw both players as NFL punters and that they were extremely close in terms of competition level (the fact that Berry quickly landed another job after he was cut helps support Smith’s assertion, unlike last year).
What helped us all, especially Berry, was the fact that there was actually a preseason this year, which gave both punters an extended opportunity to put their work on film. Berry had perhaps the best summer of his entire career, and his ability to put that on tape was probably the difference between his getting a job when cut this year and sitting unsigned for more than a month last year.
But this is about Harvin, the big-legged rookie. I do not believe that he was the better punter between the two this summer. What he showed is that he is the more talented punter, with greater range and hangtime, but he lacks in consistency. He had both the longest and the shortest punts of the Summer, both in terms of distance and hangtime, while Berry’s punts were more evenly distributed.
Finding that kick-to-kick consistency is going to be an ongoing project, but if the Steelers didn’t believe that they could bring him closer to having a rhythmic and repeatable delivery, then I don’t think he would be on the team right now. It’s not uncommon for rookie specialists to lack in consistency before they finally get exposure to NFL-level training in technique.