With the 2022 NFL Draft now just weeks away, it is as fitting a time as any for us to now turn our attentions backward to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class of 2021, looking back on their first year in the league and what their futures look like at this point. The team got an inordinate amount of playing time from their rookie class last season, with almost every draft pick contributing significantly.
In all, the Steelers held nine draft selections, including one in the fifth round after they traded a 2022 fourth-round draft pick for one, so they won’t have one this year. They had at least one selection in every round, with two in the fourth and two in the seventh.
Their first four selections were all on offense, the first time in history they used their first four selections on one side of the ball. Their next four draft picks were all defensive players, but they finished their class with one special-teams selection.
We have one final draft pick to cover from the 2021 class, their ninth selection overall and the second choice in the seventh round. They used their final draft choice to address a need on special teams, drafting punter Pressley Harvin III to compete with veteran incumbent Jordan Berry.
Unfortunately for Harvin, his regular season did not go according to plan. Based on the raw numbers, he was quite simply one of the worst punters in the NFL during the 2021 season, although he had a few good games mixed in between games that had fans calling for his benching.
The Steelers were attracted to Berry’s big-leg potential, and he did display that at times, but he significantly lacked in consistency, and a shank or two per game was far from uncommon. All of this was reflected in his numbers.
Harvin finished the season with a net punting average of 38 yards, which was the third-worst in the league among qualifying punters, behind only Matt Haack of the Buffalo Bills and Ty Long of the Los Angeles Chargers. Haack did have one punt blocked.
He did have three touchbacks, which is neither bad nor good, and his 25 punts within the 20-yard line were actually top 10 in the league, but he was also in the top 10 in punts attempted. He had a league-high 15 punts go out of bounds, and that was not often in his favor in terms successful directional punting.
Notably, Berry, who was picked up by the Vikings, finished second in that category while posting a net average of 40.8 yards per punt, which ranked in the top half of the league. But Berry also had amongst the most punts returned, allowing amongst the most return yardage. Harvin was in the middle of the pack in that respect.
Of course, we can’t conclude discussion of his rookie season without mention of his personal difficulties. Harvin lost both his father and his grandmother over the course of the year, both suffering from long battles with illness. The team brought both of them out to see their boy in one final game, each passing away a relative short time later.
It’s undeniable that his personal life would have affected his personal life in some way, shape, or form. The team did stick by him after his missed two games following the death of his father, while Corliss Waitman performed well in his absence. But he won’t be given a free pass again. He will have to earn his job this summer.