Harvin III’s openness over father’s death helping him cope, thrive on field

Steelers punter having strong camp following difficult rookie season on, off the field

Pressley Harvin III stood in his own end zone Tuesday during the special teams portion of practice in at Steelers training camp in Latrobe.

He took a long snap and uncorked a towering, explosive punt that sailed over 60 yards, took a bounce, and ended up in the other end zone.

The several thousand Steelers fans in attendance broke out in cheers, accompanied by ‘ooo’s and ahhh’s.’

“It’s good. It’s good to have the fans engaged and show them what I can do, on and off the field,” Harvin said Wednesday. “But I don’t care too much about the fan presence. I want the team to know that I’m putting them in the best position.”

A year ago, Harvin didn’t do that. He struggled, game after game, to find consistency as he went through his rookie season in the NFL.

But, while the public critiqued his play, Harvin was going through a battle off of the field that many did not know about.

His father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and passed away on Christmas morning. His grandmother passed away two weeks later.

“I’m still hurting,” Harvin said. “Every now and then, I still have my moments.

“But the biggest thing I keep telling myself is that everything happens for a reason. God doesn’t make mistakes. It made me a better man. I miss him to death. But, at the same time, it’s a new normal. I’d rather take the day that I have and make the most of it every day.”

The Steelers, despite Harvin’s struggles on the field, stuck by him, even as backup punter Corliss Waitman seemed to outperform the rookie.

Now, a day after the Steelers cut the other punter in camp, Cameron Nizialek, Harvin is embracing the challenge.

His top punt Tuesday traveled 63 yards, with a 5.32 second hang time. Another sailed 62 yards, and hung up for 5.02 seconds. Another, 61 yards, 5.20 in the air.

“I’ll take it,” Harvin said with a smile. “I’m just trying to take in all the hard work of this offseason, put myself in a position to let muscle memory take over when I need it to. The hard work is starting to show up.”

Harvin is no longer in a camp competition — though it never truly seemed like one materialized. But he does continue to battle against himself for continued growth.

“Every day I come out here, I tell myself that it’s just one versus one,” he said. “It’s just me versus me, the whole time. At the end of the day, I have to look myself in the mirror and tell myself how I did.”

As he improves on the field, he also continues to heal off of it. And using social media, and traditional media, to talk about his hardships during the 2021, have been cathartic.

“I really didn’t say much, when I first found out the news about my dad being sick and didn’t have long,” he said. “After that, I was like, I have a platform to help people if they’re going through things. Especially when we’re all walking around here right now, and you don’t know what anyone else is going through.

“We’re all on the same accord about football. Life outside of football is what I really wanted to try to help people with when the offseason started. I’m completely open and transparent about it.”

The Steelers used a seventh-round pick in 2021 on the former Ray Guy Award winner out of Georgia Tech. So there is some level of investment there, and last year’s results were disappointing.

But with a clearer mind, and a committed focus to using his struggles to better himself and others, Harvin feels that his best days are certainly ahead of him.

“If I can get through the last year, at this point, I don’t feel like any position you put me in, any adversity I go through at this point in life, nothing is going to be able to tear me down.”