One of the more spirited practice periods during the Steelers 3-day mini-camp occurred, of all times, during a special teams’ session.
Typically, when assistant Danny Smith’s units take over the practice field the veterans hang out on the sidelines and don’t pay much attention, especially during an off-season workout. Thursday, however, the other players were into it as rookie Pressley Harvin III and veteran Jordan Berry engaged in a bit of a punting competition.
Since the Steelers invested a 7th round draft pick on Harvin it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he will win the punting job. Harvin’s rookie salary versus that of a 7-year veteran also helps at least a little against the tight salary cap. Plus, Berry hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency in recent years.
Realistically, the only way Harvin cannot win the job is to – well – shank it. That’s pretty much what he started to do Thursday.
As Berry boomed most of his early kicks, Harvin was having some difficulty to the point that he started hearing it from some of the veterans, notably the captains. The quarterback, in particular, was especially harsh although you’d think Ben Roethlisberger would empathize with being booed at home. Yet he was louder than any of his teammates.
His coach seemed to enjoy it. In fact, Mike Tomlin started to smile when I asked him if he thought some of the vets were too tough on the rookie.
“No, no, that was just their way of encouraging,” Tomlin grinned. “We’ve got to create adversity for guys so we get to know them. That’s part of our approach in terms of creating competition and having fun with it. We want to create adversity so guys have a chance to shine.”
To Harvin’s credit, he did not wilt under the verbal pressure and was able to minimize the damage toward the end of the impromptu competition. Maybe his most impressive punt came after Berry had launched one then Harvin outdid him on his next kick. Overall, though, Berry was better.
Of course, it was just a half dozen punts from each on a late June morning in an empty Heinz Field but Berry proved he will not go quietly. It should make for some more spirited rookie razzing when training camp convenes about 5 weeks from now.