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Looking beyond the typical punting statistics for the Steelers’ Pressley Harvin

Are there more than the regular punting stats that tell a bigger part of the story?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I was asked if there were more statistics when it came to punting than those typically reported. With the usual stats being yards, net yards, and punts inside the 20-yard line, I was tasked with looking for additional measurables and if it painted a different picture when it comes to the Steelers punting situation.

When looking at statistics that aren’t commonly tracked by the NFL itself, it’s very important to know to the source. In trying to find some of the numbers I wanted to expand on in terms of punting, the best statistical data I found came from Pro Football Focus (PFF). Please note, these are not grades or scores, this is PFF looking at the plays and recording the statistics. While I feel their statistics are off on some of the things that the NFL measures itself, when PFF is one of the few sources tracking a statistic it makes for the best data available.

The first statistic I looked for because it is something I remember in the past being shown on the screen during a punt is the hang time. In his two seasons in the NFL, Pressley Harvin increased the hang time of his punts from 2021 to 2022. In 2021 his average hang time was 4.28 seconds while in 2022 it was 4.38 seconds. In his two seasons, Harvin ranked among punters with at least 30 punts on the season 9th and 8th respectively.

With the Steelers focus on directional punting, one thing they prefer is to not have their opponent attempt to return any punts. For this reason, return percentage is a key statistic to help evaluate a punter. In 2021, Pressley Harvin had a 38.6% return rate which was tied for 13th in the NFL. In 2022, he improved by seeing the percentage dropped to 34.8% which ranked 5th in the NFL.

Keeping the number of returns down is a great thing, but to piggyback off that it’s also important to look at how many yards your opponent averages in their punt returns. This is not taking into account punts that weren’t returned, but simply the ones which were. In 2021 as a rookie, teams averaged 9.7 yards per return of Pressley Harvin’s punts which ranked 27th out of 33 qualifying punters. But in 2022, Harvin and his Steelers teammates took a huge step in this category as Harvin‘s punts were returned for an average of 5.7 yards which was 2nd best in the NFL last season.

While the stats are encouraging, they don’t exist in a vacuum. It actually takes a number of stats when it comes to punting all combined together to really paint an accurate picture. For example, a punter may have a very low return percentage if they are kicking a lot of punts short and out of bounds which could minimize the helpfulness of the statistic. So even though it is encouraging to see Pressley Harvin towards the top of the NFL in some statistics, his 41.1 net yards per punt which ranks 20th in the NFL can’t be ignored.

To hear more about thee punting statistics as well as some statistical breakdowns of the Steel Curtain era defenses, check out the Steelers Stat Geek podcast below: