PITTSBURGH — The Steelers had many problems on Sunday, but one of the problems that could be overlooked is the punting game. Punter Pressley Harvin III averaged 42.3 yards per punt with several punts that gave the 49ers short fields. In his press conference on Tuesday, Mike Tomlin called out that factor in what could be considered a public callout of Harvin.
“I didn’t think we did a good enough job of punting the football,” Tomlin said. “I thought that was a component of it early, specifically early. Their first two scores were on short fields for the field positioning component. If you’re getting off the field on possession downs and your net punting isn’t good, chances are your opponents will be on short fields. When they are on short fields, it drives up the propensity to score; there are analytical studies that outline drive starts to scoring. We all understand that in this business. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that factor of the game was a significant letdown for us.”
This is now a gut-check moment for Harvin. The Steelers brought in competition to push him in Braden Mann, and he cleanly won that competition. But games from him like the one on Sunday can not continue, or the Steelers will need to look elsewhere to fix their punting woes, even from an analytics standpoint. Harvin measured out as one of the worst punters in the NFL in Week 1.
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(week 1 punter rankings) pic.twitter.com/ymPkNqTdLi
— Puntalytics (@ThePuntRunts) September 11, 2023
Harvin and the punt coverage have to play at a higher level. With the defense now losing Cam Heyward, field position becomes an even more critical part of the game. The Steelers must consistently win the field position battle and put those defensive linemen in good spots to succeed. But Harvin did not hold up his end of the bargain on Sunday. If it continues, it would be little surprise to see the Steelers look to go outside the organization and add someone.
Alan Saunders contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.