Pressley Harvin III or Corliss Waitman? Who will be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting punter for Sunday night’s Wild Card game? Either Mike Tomlin genuinely isn’t sure or he’s keeping that information a secret, because he left it an open-ended question when asked Tuesday.
During his weekly press conference, Tomlin was asked who will handle punting duties for the team this weekend.
“We’ll see what this week holds,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “We’ve got some planning to do in that area in terms of the division of labor. But we also have it in some other areas as well. That’s what the week’s prep is about.”
After missing two weeks following the death of his father, Pittsburgh turned back to Harvin for their regular season finale. But Harvin’s struggles continued, unable to pin the ball deep in Ravens’ territory with punts landing at the 17 or 20 instead of inside the ten. He also had one shank, a 33-yarder that skipped out of bounds.
On the year, Harvin averaged just 42.6 yards per punt. Among qualified punters, that ranked 28th out of 29 players. Only Tampa Bay’s Bradley Pinion’s average was worse, coming in at 42.5. His net average wasn’t much better, 27th in the league at 38 yards.
Waitman impressed in the two games he appeared in, including his debut in Week 16 against the Chiefs at Arrowhead, where the team will be playing this weekend. Though it’s a small sample size and Waitman had few pin-deep opportunities, he boomed the ball with consistency, averaging a whopping 52.1 yards on seven attempts. He also appeared to be competent as a holder, too, a crucial part of the punter’s job description.
On paper, choosing Waitman seems like the obvious option. But Tomlin made it a point that he wasn’t going to rush into any decision.
“The big thing for us is that we don’t make too many decisions too quickly. Oftentimes when you have that mentality, the right decision reveals itself to you. And so I’m in no hurry. The game is on Sunday night.”
As double-digit point underdogs, field position will play a key role in trying to upset the Chiefs. The last thing Patrick Mahomes and company need is a shorter field to work with.