On Wednesday January 26 the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have inked punter Cameron Nizialek to a one-year Reserve/Future contract. He originally signed to the team’s practice squad on December 25, 2021—a potential substitute for Pressley Harvin III, whose father died that same day.
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Corliss Waitman vs. Cam Nizialek
As it turns out, it was Corliss Waitman who took Harvin’s place for two games, and the Steelers no doubt would have signed Waitman to compete with Harvin in 2022, except he was no longer available. That’s because the Steelers waived Waitman on January 15, 2022, to make room on the 53-man roster for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who made a surprisingly early return from a Week 5 shoulder injury that was initially believed to be season ending.
But Waitman punted so well during what turned out to be a two-game audition that the Broncos claimed him on waivers, no doubt impressed by his 52.1 yards per punt average. Meanwhile, Harvin struggled in his return to the lineup in Week 18, averaging just 37.3 yards per kick over the course of eight punts against the Baltimore Ravens.
That subpar performance prompted speculation that Mike Tomlin would turn back to Waitman for the team’s Wild Card game at Kansas City. But alas he did not, and Harvin validated the vote of confidence by averaging 49.7 yards per kick in the playoff game.
Yet it’s obvious that Harvin needs to become more consistent if he hopes to hold down Pittsburgh’s punting job long-term. The 2021 seventh-round pick (Georgia Tech) punted the ball 70 times last season but averaged only 42.1 yards per kick, near the bottom of the NFL in that category.
Cameron Nizialek Failed to Hold Onto Atlanta’s Punting Job Last Season
The Steelers have to hope that Nizialek—who served as punter and placekicker at Columbia University before finishing his college career with the Georgia Bulldogs—can give Harvin the push he needs.
Thus far, Nizialek has four games of regular-season experience in the NFL, having opened the 2021 season as the punter for the Atlanta Falcons, getting an opportunity to claim the job following an injury to former seventh-round pick Sterling Hofrichter.
But he experienced early season struggles before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 4, which necessitated a stint on injured reserve. Then he was waived on November 9, 2021, opening the door for him to sign to Pittsburgh’s practice squad.
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Nizialek originally came into the league in 2019, signing with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent following the draft. He has also spent time on the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As for the aforementioned Corliss Waitman, he also took a circuitous route to getting a chance to kick in the regular-season. Waitman first signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. He went on to spend the entire season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad before returning on a one-year Reserve/Futures contract in January 2021. But he was waived a few days after the Steelers drafted Harvin and didn’t catch on with another NFL team until training camp, when he was signed by the Las Vegas Raiders.
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