The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: How safe is punter Pressley Harvin’s job?
Harvin beat out veteran incumbent Jordan Berry last summer on the back of a good – though not perfect – summer. Though his rookie season showed flashes of what made him the team’s seventh and final draft pick, he was wildly inconsistent, something also evident on his Georgia Tech tape. He finished the year averaging 42.6 yards per punt with a 38-yard net. Both numbers clear downgrades from Jordan Berry’s 2020 production, 45.8 and 40.5 respectively. Harvin did deal with personal tragedy, including the death of his father, and that certainly may have impacted his performance. But 2022 needs to be the year he firmly establishes himself as the Steelers’ guy.
Pittsburgh does have another punter on the roster in Cameron Nizialek, but Harvin’s biggest competition will come from the waiver wire and veteran options who are out on the street. Pittsburgh did so years ago with Drew Butler initially surviving cutdowns but replaced by Zoltan Mesko before Week 1. Mesko didn’t work out either, and the team finished the year with Mat McBriar.
For Harvin to stay, he must show consistency. No 64-yard, 4.21-second hangtime punt following up by a JV shank that lands in the third row. Pittsburgh’s punters don’t have to be and normally aren’t cream of the crop. Blame part of that for punting in bad weather conditions, but the Steelers haven’t seemed particularly interesting in finding the world’s best punter. All Mike Tomlin wants is average to slightly above but consistent play. Someone he can trust to reliably get the job done, even if it’s not flashy. He wants a Toyota Camry, not a Lamborghini.
Harvin may only be in his second season but his leash is short. Specialists especially don’t get much time or margin for error. There are no backup kickers, punters, or long snappers under normal, regular circumstances. He’s either the starter or he’s not on the team. That means 2022 is make or break.