Corliss Waitman Could Make History for the Steelers on Sunday

Dustin Colquitt Released

The Steelers have released punter Dustin Colquitt. They also placed linebacker Devin Bush on injured reserve following an ACL injury. That leaves the team with only one punter on the roster, Corliss Waitman.

Following Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Browns, Mike Tomlin acknowledged struggles in the team’s punting. “I acknowledge that our punting is not up to snuff and that we have to get better in that area, and we are willing to do whatever is required in an effort to do so,” Tomlin said during his post-game press conference.

With the release of Colquitt the team is looking at a new option for Sunday. No corresponding move to Colquitt’s release has been made yet. That leaves Waitman, who has spent the 2020 season on the practice squad as the only punter in Pittsburgh.


Corliss Waitman’s Chance at History

Corliss Waitman
(Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers)

Waitman was born in Belgium and didn’t move to the states until he was 15 years old. His family is from Suriname, the smallest country in South America.

“I think I might be the first Surinamese player in the NFL,” Waitman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m not 100% sure, but when I did get my shot as an undrafted free agent, they were over there in the newspapers like I got drafted. They were like, ‘What the heck? This guy is in the NFL?’ ”

Well, not exactly, but he may be well on his way.

“I would be lying if I said it isn’t different, you know? When you’re in high school going to camps and you’re the only Black guy there, everybody’s looking at you like, ‘Hey, whoa, this is different,’ ” Waitman said. “It still is different.”

Waitman isn’t wrong. In fact, he would be the first black punter in Steelers’ history. He would also be the first full-time starting punter in the league since Marquette King, who spent six years with the Oakland Raiders and one season with the Denver Broncos.

“Your favorite player, you’re going to try to find a player you can really relate with. In high school, I could really relate with Marquette King,” Waitman said. “To me, I think I’m in a perfect situation because I’ve been in different countries, lived in different neighborhoods. I’ve always been a multicultural guy, so it’s easy for me to fit in anywhere and feel comfortable.”


The Long Road Here

Corliss Waitman hasn’t punted in a game since 2017. He redshirted his first year at South Alabama. Then tore his ACL after playing in just two games his second season. Last year he attempted to gain a waiver for an extra year of eligibility at Mississippi State, but the NCAA turned down his request.

With no pre-season this year he has yet to make a punt in a real game since his last college punt.

“It would’ve been nice, but I try to not think like that,” Waitman said of missing out on the preseason. “I try to just control what I can control because, at the end of the day, these coaches are going to help create environments where they can see how we respond in pressure situations.”

Waitman would also take on holding duties for field goals and extra points. A job that he will most likely get plenty of practice this week.


Taking Note

“I just watch them. I watch Boswell, I watch Jordan, I watch Kam — how they move around the facility, their routine. They might not notice it, but I’m soaking all that in. They’ve been in the league for years, so why would I not do that? Anything they tell me, I’m writing that down. They don’t even know it, but I’m taking notes,” Waitman told reporters during training camp.

Many others may be taking note this Sunday. As the only punter currently on the Steelers roster there is a very good chance that Corliss Waitman will get the nod on Sunday. If he plays well this will become his job to lose.

“You know, it’s funny when people say, ‘Do you stop and think?’ When I didn’t get to play, I could really stop and think,” Waitman said. “So many hurdles I went through, so many different countries, different settings I’ve been in, and I end up being here. It hasn’t been an easy road, but it was for a reason. I’m here now, and it feels great.”

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