Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into 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. Because of this, we can and will 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: After experiencing significant tragedy over the course of his rookie season, losing both his father and his grandmother, the rookie punter did get the opportunity to end the year on a high note, performing at a high level in the team’s postseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
I’m willing to bet money that you’ve never known so much about a backup punter before, or at least rooted for him, as you have this season for Corliss Waitman. The Steelers are not new to backup punters thanks to Daniel Sepulveda’s knees (hello, Super Bowl champion Chris Gardocki, and Jeremy Kapinos), but this season’s case was unique.
Harvin was drafted in the seventh round to challenge incumbent Jordan Berry. In spite of inconsistencies, the Steelers went with the young upside and kept him over the veteran. Believe it or not, he did have a few good games during the season. But woeful inconsistencies left him ranked at or near the bottom of every major punting statistic in 2021.
Little did we know what he was going through in his personal life, beyond the typical transitional rookie issues. His father and his grandmother were both terminally ill. His father passed away on Christmas Day, and he spent the next two games inactive.
The Steelers went back to him for the regular-season finale, but he had one of his worst games of the year, if not the worst. I suspect the decision to go with either Harvin or Waitman for the postseason was a lot closer than fans may think. But it did work out in the end, at least for that one game.
He punted seven times for the game, which is fairly typical for this Steelers offense, and he was free from shanks, averaging about 50 gross yards per punt. Were it not for one bad play by the coverage unit, allowing a 48-yard return, he would have had a net punting average of 46.5. Even with that one long return, which was not on him, he netted a respectable 40.8 yards for the game.
That was a very important game to end the season with for a player who had major, major struggles during the year. One game isn’t going to change his status, and I suspect that if they have the chance to do so, they’ll get Waitman back this offseason. Either way, the Steelers are likely to offer some type of challenger to Harvin this summer. But he’ll go into that game knowing that he proved to the team and to himself that he is capable of performing well under pressure.