The Pittsburgh Steelers roster includes several veterans, but one that constantly flies under the radar year in and year out is long snapper Greg Warren, who is entering his eighth season in the league.
While Warren does not get a lot of media coverage, it probably doesn\’t hurt his feelings. In fact, the less you hear his name the better, as it means that he his doing his job well. If asked who the long snapper is on the team, the average fan likely couldn\’t even tell you his name.
Warren was originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005 out of North Carolina, where he started his long snapping career as a walk-on. Upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, he was saddled with the task of beating out Mike Schneck, who had been the Steelers long snapper for the previous six seasons. Warren was given more than his share of playing time during the 2005 season preseason and his performance was good enough for him to unseat Schneck.
After his first three seasons, Warren was a free agent and the Steelers rewarded him prior to the 2008 season with a three year deal worth $2.3 million that included a $395,000 signing bonus.
Warren played in the first seven regular season games of 2008 before suffering a season-ending knee injury during the second half in the game against the New York Giants on October 26, that ended his streak of 55 consecutive games played dating back to his rookie season. Linebacker James Harrison, who had played around long snapping some in training camp, volunteered to replace Warren after he left the game. The result was a memorable one as Harrison snapped his first opportunity over the head of punter Mitch Berger for a safety that tied the game. The Steelers would go on to lose that game 21-14.
Warren finished out the year on injured reserve, but was ready again by the time training camp rolled around. His 2009 season would once again finish with him being placed on injured reserve after he tore his ACL once again late in the week 15 game against the Green Bay Packers. The injury occurred on the final play of game which happened to be an extra point attempt following the Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace touchdown pass with no time remaining on the clock.
Jared Retkofsky, who had replaced Warren on the roster in 2008 after he was injured, finished out the 2009 season as the long snapper for the Steelers. Retkofsky was released prior to the start of training camp in 2010 in favor of long snapper Matt Stewart, who was to challenge Warren for his job. Warren was unfazed by the competition and Stewart was released during the first wave of cuts in early September.
After disposing of Stewart early on in training camp, Warren would go on to play the entire 2010 season without injury. The Steelers once again re-signed Warren following the lockout to a two year deal, and once again the veteran had early competition in training camp as the Steelers signed undrafted free agent Derek Chard. Chard was released early on in camp and Warren would go on to have another injury free season.
Warren now faces competition as he heads into his eighth training camp as the Steelers signed veteran Matt Katula to the 90 man roster this past week. Like Warren, Katula entered the league in 2005 after signing with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent. After five seasons with the Ravens, Katula played partial seasons with the New England Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings.
Should Warren once again beat out his competition this summer, it likely will fly under the radar, just like it has every other season since. Long snappers only get their names in the paper when something bad happens or they get released, and Warren figures to once again stay away from that type of media coverage.