Connect with us

Steelers News

Steelers Urged to Sign Controversial Punter Matt Araiza



Pittsburgh Steelers free agent target punter Matt Araiza
Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

The Pittsburgh Steelers do not currently have a punter on their offseason roster after releasing incumbent starter Pressley Harvin III earlier this week. Former NFL punter and Pittsburgh native Pat McAfee sees a great fit for the team in ex-Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza.

McAfee said that Pittsburgh is one of the tougher places to punt in the country, between the playing surface and weather at Acrisure Stadium and the fact that the entire AFC North plays in outdoor, cold-weather stadiums.

“After watching his film and how he punts, Matt Araiza is a guy that would be able potentially to handle the AFC North stadiums”, McAfee said on his show earlier this week said. “You have to have a very strong leg, just like Pressley Harvin did”.

Araiza, 23, was nicknamed the “Punt God” during his time at San Diego State, when he led college football in gross average as a senior in 2021, won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in the country and was voted a unanimous choice as an All-American.

He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Bills and seemed likely to take over the team’s punting duties as a rookie. But that didn’t happen when he was abruptly released late in August, one day after he was named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit alleging a gang rape of a minor involving Araiza and his San Diego State teammates.

Araiza denied the allegations from the beginning of the process. Criminal charges were not filed against any of the alleged participants. 

“Ultimately, prosecutors determined it is clear the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges and there is no path to a potential criminal conviction,” the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said in a written statement.

Araiza admitted that he had sex with his accuser, but claimed it was consensual and that she lied about her age. He later counter-sued for defamation. Ultimately, both lawsuits were dropped this past December, with neither party admitting wrongdoing.

“Matt has been forced to defend himself for the last sixteen months against false accusations and a campaign to ruin his career in the NFL. He will never get this time in his life back,” Araiza’s attorneys said in a statement to the Associated Press.

“My name, my reputation — this will be tied to me forever, that won’t go away,” Araiza said at a news conference. “It was tough to watch the pain that it caused my family, because I have been proven innocent but they for sure had absolutely nothing to do with this.”

It’s unclear if Araiza could possibly face NFL discipline stemming from the event. He has not been signed by or worked out with another NFL team since the lawsuits were dropped. His agent said he is hoping to sign with an NFL or XFL team this spring.

The Steelers have a significant history of acquiring former San Diego State players. Current safeties Damontae Kazee and Trenton Thompson and cornerback Luq Barcoo are SDSU alum. The team also had return man Jordan Byrd in training camp this season and guard Bill Dunkle spent the 2022 season on the practice squad. 

Safeties Kameron Kelly (2019) and Nat Berhe (2018) have also played of the Steelers in recent years.