Pressley Harvin III was supposed to travel with his teammates to Kansas City on Christmas before learning the news that his father had passed. Instead of facing the Chiefs the following day, the Steelers' rookie punter made the 10-hour drive home.
Two weeks later, his grandmother died on the eve of the Steelers' regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Harvin played in that game and helped Pittsburgh clinch the AFC's final postseason berth.
"We had a decision that had to be made Sunday morning, but I was completely motivated to go out there and show the world that everyone goes through adversity and try to fight through it," Harvin said of his decision to play in Baltimore. "The biggest thing I learned this year is that any adversity can happen at any time. The biggest thing that you have to do is to keep God first, pray about it and find out what works best for you and get into a rhythm that helps you out to try to get through those things. That's what I was able to do in the last part of the season."
Harvin shared what went through his mind during his drive back home following his father's death.
"I took a little bit of a second to reflect on what my dad told me," he said. "The biggest thing that he told me was whenever the time goes when he's not going to be here anymore was to handle my business and take care of my family. ... My life is different now. I'm not home and I have this job in the NFL, but at the same time, you still have to handle your business outside of it."
Along with the Kansas City game, Harvin did not play in the Steelers' Week 17 win over the Browns. In his absence, Corliss Waitman averaged 52.1 yards per punt. Despite Waitman's success, the Steelers went back to Harvin upon his return to the team.
"Corliss is a good friend of mine," said Harvin, who said that he has already made offseason plans to train with Watiman, who was recently picked up by the Broncos. "As you all know, I think we were the only two active African American punters this entire season. That competition was good to have around. I had a lot going on personally, and honestly I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to do it.
"I appreciate Coach Tomlin and the Rooney family and everyone for continuing to believe in me, because it was a tough time. I had never had that much adversity put on me."
Harvin rewarded the Steelers' faith in him during Pittsburgh's wild card playoff game against Kansas City. While the Steelers lost, Harvin enjoyed his best performance of the season. He punted seven times and averaged nearly 50 yards per punt.
"Honestly, it felt like I got back to myself," Harvin said of his success in Kansas City. "Mentally, I knew it was tough going into a playoff game, but the biggest thing that I thought about was that my grandma and my dad are OK. I know they're in a better place than here, and that gave me a little bit of clarity and allowed me to sit and relax a little bit before the game.
"I told myself, 'You know what, 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. And to just keep God first; I prayed a lot before the game. ... Honestly, that was one of the most fun games of my life. Unfortunately we lost. I really, really wish we won. But for me individually, I felt like I had more fun on the sidelines just being around the guys, being in that environment. ... I'm happy with what the results were, but I know I have a lot of work on the table left to be able to have that consistency every single game. That's the biggest thing that I wanted to leave the season with knowing that I can leave on a good note so I can show them what I can do as well as continue to work myself into doing it just about every single time."
Harvin and his family were able to enjoy one last moment together with his father and grandmother. A week before his father's death, the Steelers arranged for Harvin's family to attend Pittsburgh's Week 15 win over Tennessee. Several Steelers -- including kicker Chris Boswell and Tomlin -- met with Harvin's family before kickoff.
"I'll never forget that trip that we actually got them up for a game against Tennessee," Harvin said. "I'll never forget that moment. All of us being in the house as a family that last time. I just makes me smile. ... Just that true pleasure and joy that they got from being at that game."
When asked about what he had learned this past season, Harvin said that learned that it's "OK to not be OK sometimes." Harvin also learned that he has a support system in Pittsburgh, as he credited the Steelers organization for helping him persevere through an extremely difficult time.
"I'm just truly appreciative of the Steelers organization and the Rooney family," he said. "When I first got up here, I was told that the motto of the Rooney family was family, faith and football in that order. ... I really, really felt that whenever we got the bad news about my dad and my grandma. It was always family first. This organization is definitely to me, and I know it's the same to them as well."