PITTSBURGH — Maybe because Pressley Harvin III was drafted, it was assumed that he had won the Steelers’ punting job right from the jump.
To be honest, his game against Dallas did nothing but strengthen his case over incumbent veteran Jordan Berry. Even still, Berry has hung around with consistent performance over the summer, including a good game against Philadelphia.
Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith is impressed by both and says that Harvin’s draft status will hold absolutely no weight when they decide just who becomes the punter come Sept. 12.
“That doesn’t affect me,” Smith said of Harvin’s draft status. “That’s the same as a linebacker, that’s the same as a quarterback, that’s the same as a DB. And anybody that doesn’t think so doesn’t understand the game of football. In Pittsburgh, PA, obviously, we like draft choices to make football teams, as everybody does. But we’re going to keep the best guy. We’re going to keep the best guy. And I think those are the teams that win, the teams that do that. We don’t keep guys on a hope and a prayer or a wish. We’re going to keep the best guy.”
While the Steelers clearly love what they have seen from Harvin, there is still a lot of good things that Smith has seen from the veteran Berry. More importantly, Smith effusively praised Berry as having the best stretch of his career right now.
“It really has been competitive,” Smith said. “It really has. It’s good to see two pros put their best foot forward. No pun intended. But Jordan’s punting the ball better than he ever has and Pressley is very talented, so it’s been quite a competition. And it will continue.”
Meanwhile, Smith did note that the simple fact that the Steelers have seen Berry punt in the regular season gives him no more of a leg up. It is truly a level field when it comes to just who will win the Steelers’ punting job. The Steelers seem to have all the data they could possibly need, and will make a decision based on that.
“It doesn’t really give him a leg up,” Smith said of Berry’s experience. “They’re tough decisions, to your point. They’re really hard decisions to make for myself, for the head coach, for the GM, for the owner. They’re tough decisions, they really are. But that’s our job and that’s what we’ve got to get done. I have timed everything. I’ve got stacks up there in that dang thing that would blow your mind, and I’m not a big stat guy. But I’ve got times: hand to foot, hangtime, depth, distance, location, all those kinds of things.”
Whoever wins the Steelers’ punting job comes to their matchup against the Buffalo Bills, it is hard not to believe Smith. The Steelers spent a sixth-round pick on Colin Holba in 2017 at long snapper, only to cut him for the undrafted Kam Canaday. This situation might not be a perfect match in that regard, but the precedent is there.