On August 30th the Denver Broncos terminated the contract of 10th year punter Sam Martin, effectively handing their punting job to former Pittsburgh Steelers punter Corliss Waitman. There are conflicting reports as to whether Martin refused to take a pay cut to save his job. But the fact that Waitman won out over a veteran who was “a top 5 punter statistically in 2021 and set (the) Broncos all-time record for punting last season” speaks to Waitman’s big-leg potential.
A Season’s Worth of Second-Guessing Forthcoming?
If Waitman outperforms second-year Steelers punter Pressley Harvin III in the year — and years — ahead, fans will second-guess Pittsburgh’s decision to waive Waitman in January 2022.
Recall that the Steelers signed Waitman off New England’s practice squad on Christmas Day 2021, knowing that Harvin would be missing time while on bereavement leave. He served as Pittsburgh’s punter for the Week 16 and 17 games (at Kansas City, Cleveland) and averaged 52.1 yards per kick on seven punts, which would have been good enough to lead the NFL if he had enough punts to qualify for the rankings.
Surprisingly, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made Waitman inactive for Pittsburgh’s season-finale and brought back Harvin, who went on to average a mere 37.3 yards per kick over the course of eight punts at Baltimore. Tomlin attributed the decision, in part, to Harvin being a better holder, yet many fans questioned the decision to turn away from Waitman, who had been described by one Steelers beat writer as a “small sample size All-Star.”
All that said, Harvin bounced back in the post-season game at Kansas City, averaging 49.7 yards per kick on seven punts, while Steelers placekicker Chris Boswell was three of three on extra-point attempts.
And this summer he beat out former Falcons/Georgia Bulldogs punter Cameron Nizialek, who was signed to a one-year Reserve/Futures contract in January 2022 after spending the latter part of the 2021 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad.
Corliss Waitman’s NFL Journey Re-Visited
As for Corliss Waitman, 27, he took a long, circuitous path to where he is now. During a four-year career at South Alabama, Waitman punted 158 times and averaged 42.7 yards per kick. He subsequently transferred to Mississippi State but was denied another year of eligibility by the NCAA and sat out the 2019 season. He went on to spend all of 2020 on Pittsburgh’s practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent on April 28, 2020. Then he inked a one-year Reserve/Futures contract in early 2021, only to get waived after the Steelers got “bigger and better at punter” by selecting Harvin in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
After that, Waitman spent part of the summer of 2021 with the Las Vegas Raiders. He was signed to New England’s practice squad on November 23, 2021, before being poached by the Steelers.
For his part, Pressley Harvin says he’s happy for his former teammate.
“There’s not a lot of African-American specialists, but Corliss is a really, really profound punter, too,” he recently told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He’s found his way. It’s crazy how paths collide, and next thing you know, they both go merging in the same direction. It’s good for him to be there. I’m excited, man, for sure.”