On Saturday January 15 the Pittsburgh Steelers waived punter Corliss Waitman to make room on the 53-man roster for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who played 52 snaps and caught five passes for 26 yards in Sunday’s 42-21 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Steelers were hoping to get Waitman back so he could compete with Pressley Harvin III next season, that’s probably not going to happen. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Broncos claimed Waitman on waivers on Monday, though the transaction won’t become official until after the Super Bowl.
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Waitman Showcased His Strong Leg in Weeks 16 & 17
It’s no surprise that Waitman was claimed, not after teams had a chance to see him kick for Pittsburgh in Week 16 and Week 17. After the Steelers signed Waitman off New England’s practice squad on Christmas Day, he made his regular season debut at Kansas City and also played the next week against Cleveland. During those two games Waitman punted a total of seven times for 365 yards, an average of 52.1 yards per punt, which would be good enough to lead the league if he had enough punts to qualify for the rankings.
Nevertheless, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin chose to make him inactive for the team’s regular-season finale, instead going back to rookie Pressley Harvin III, who missed the Kansas City and Cleveland games in the wake of his father’s death. Harvin struggled mightily in his return to the lineup in Week 18, averaging just 37.3 yards per kick over the course of eight punts.
Yet Tomlin went with Harvin over Waitman for the team’s Wild Card game, attributing the decision to Harvin’s skills as a holder.
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Long story short, Harvin validated Tomlin’s decision to stick with him. Not only did he average 49.7 yards per kick on seven punts, Steelers placekicker Chris Boswell was three of three on extra-point attempts.
Harvin’s strong postseason game makes it easier to have faith in him going forward, as he’ll be entering his second season after being selected by the Steelers in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech. Had Harvin not been drafted by the Steelers, it’s very likely he would have been signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. In July 2021, Harvin told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com that he was discussing a deal with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith when Tomlin’s draft call came in, leaving him in the unenviable position of having to “cut off” Smith to speak with Tomlin.
The Steelers Lost 2 OLB’s to Waiver Claims Earlier This Season
Notably, it’s not the first time this season that Pittsburgh lost a promising player off waivers. In September 2021 the Steelers lost two outside linebackers to waiver claims, including 2021 sixth-round pick Quincy Roche, who was released by the Steelers on August 31, only to be snapped up by the New York Giants the next day. Roche went on to appear in 14 games for the Giants this season and made three starts; he was credited with 38 tackles (23 solo), including five tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Then in late September the Steelers lost Jamir Jones to the Los Angeles Rams just weeks after he made the 53-man roster with a strong preseason in which he produced four sacks and six quarterback hits. Jones made an instant impact in his Rams debut, responsible for a “double punt” block that went viral. And he was impactful enough on special teams to be named second-team All-Pro on Pro Football Focus’ ‘Third-Quarter All-Pro Team’ for 2021.
Instead of moving forward with Jones, the Steelers elected to go with former Broncos seventh-round pick Derrek Tuszka. Ultimately, former Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton took the spot that might have been occupied by Roche.
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