The 2021 season was one filled with ups and downs for punter Pressley Harvin III, but there aren't many that truly knew how tough the season was on the rookie punter outside of his given family and his Steelers' family.
Harvin went through pain that is almost indescribable this year, losing his father and grandmother within two weeks of each other, all of it surrounded by a time of year when the focus is on celebrating family, not mourning their loss.
Harvin's father, who was ill, passed away on Christmas morning as the Steelers were preparing to head to Kansas City for a Week 16 game against the Chiefs, and his grandmother passed two weeks later, just ahead of the regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
Harvin understandably missed a stretch of three games dealing with losses, his heart hurting but showing a mental fortitude that not many in this world possess.
"I think the biggest thing mentally that I found out about myself off the field was that it's okay to not be okay sometimes," said Harvin. "These last couple of weeks have been tough. When I first found the news out about my father, that was actually Christmas morning, and I was supposed to be traveling to Kansas City. I decided to go home in that moment. In that car ride back, because flights were getting canceled left and right, so I had to take a 10-hour drive back home. But on that drive back, I took a second to reflect on what my dad told me. And the biggest thing that he told me was whenever the time comes when he's not going to be here anymore, I was to handle my business, take care of my family. And I think that's the biggest thing that I learned during this season. My life was different now and I'm not home. I have this job of what is the NFL, but at the same time you still have to handle your business outside of it. And he really showed me that just by that easy, small statement that he made was just to handle your business, but it showed me that you have to almost live two lives, when you're on the field or when you're in the building, and outside of it. I was trying so hard to get both of those to come together. I finally realized when he said that to me that sometimes you don't have to have it come together and sometimes you have to reflect back to your family and the ones that are closest to you to give you that motivation during the year.
"I would talk to my parents, my little brother all the time during the year, but I never really sat down and just talked outside of football as much as I wanted to. It was always about how's the season going, how's practice going and stuff. I never really got the opportunity as much as I wanted to because I was just so focused on doing well on the field. I never really kind of focused on things outside of it, getting away from it a little bit. This stuff can make you insane sometimes, especially with how long the season is. I feel like that's the mental part that was that was tougher during the season. As the season continued to go on was how can you get away from it a little bit to motivate yourself to get back?"
Harvin was able to have some time to focus on family, almost a chance to say goodbye to two people he adored, when the Steelers arranged to have his father and grandmother both attend the game against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field, just a little less than a week before his father passed. They spent time together at home as a family, and they were all on the field pregame taking in one final, special, family memory.
"I'll never forget that trip there," said Harvin. "We were actually able to get them up for the game. I'll never forget that moment. It was just all of us being in a house as a family for just that last time. It just makes me smile because that was the biggest thing. I didn't want them to worry about me, my side of things. I was more so worried about them. Just that true pleasure and joy that they got from being at that game."
It was his family, the entire Steelers organization, Director of Player Development Darrel Young and team chaplain Kent Chevalier who Harvin leaned on during the time. And it was a time that showed him that the message the Steelers share about being a family, well, it's the truth.
"I'm just truly appreciative of the Steelers organization and the Rooney family," said Harvin. "When I first got up here, I was told that the motto of the Rooney family was 'family, faith and football.' in that order. That was something that you hear all over the place throughout college we always say we're together, we're family. I really felt that whenever we got the bad news about my dad and my grandma. It was always family first. This organization is definitely family to me, and I know it's the same to them as well. We kept our faith, and the football is our job. I was extremely blessed and appreciative of all of the efforts that this family and organization gave to me."
And what else they gave Harvin, was another shot to get out on the field after missing the three-game stretch. The team brought in punter Corliss Waitman while Harvin was out, but it was Harvin who would punt against the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round, having one of his best days despite the loss.
"I felt like I got back to myself," said Harvin. "Mentally it was tough and I knew it was tough going into a playoff game. But the biggest thing was knowing that my grandma and my dad are okay, they're in a good place. That gave me a little bit of clarity to finally sit and relax a little bit before the game because it was a night game. I told myself why not go out there and prove to everyone that I am who I am for a reason, and I am where I am for a reason. Just keep God first. I prayed a lot that day before the game. I told myself go out there and have fun. And honestly, that was one of the most fun games in my life. Unfortunately, we lost and I really wish we'd won. But for me individually, I felt like I had more fun on the sidelines, just being around the guys and being in that environment.
"I wanted to leave the season with knowing that I can leave on a good note. I can show them what I can do as well as continue to work myself into doing it just about every single time.
"I appreciate Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the Rooney family and everyone to continue to believe in me, because it was it was a tough time. I've never had that much adversity put on me at once. Just to show the world that everyone goes through adversity, but how to try to fight through it. That was the biggest thing for me. That's the biggest thing that I learned this year, was any adversity can happen at any time. And the biggest thing that you have to do is keep God first and pray about it and find what works best for you."