The calendar is quickly flipping through the month of April, and each day brings us closer and closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, teams should have by and large accomplished everything that they have set out to do in terms of free agent roster building, which means that their sole focus is now preparing for the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally been able to clear the Troy Polamalu hurdle and settle into their pre-draft roster. We have broken down the Steelers’ moves at each position in free agency in terms of re-signings, free agent additions and subtractions, cuts, and retirements, so now we begin the final process: determining draft needs.
Last, and if we’re really being honest, most certainly least, we finish up our evaluation of the Steelers’ draft needs by looking at the special teams unit, and the three specialist positions: punter, kicker, and long snapper.
I think it’s safe to say that not many long snappers actually end up getting drafted. A few occasionally are drafted as position players, only later to be converted as a long snapper, but there have been more recent examples of actual long snappers being drafted.
We have seen what can happen when a team doesn’t have a long snapper they can trust. The Steelers, in fact, know that quite well. When Greg Warren, their long-time long snapper went down in a game, the backup long snapper sent a snap out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
The additional long snapper brought in by the team this offseason, Brandon Hartson, was acquired off waivers from the Chiefs, who themselves are in fact in the search for a new long snapper. Hartson was one of three on the roster at the time. The Steelers, however, are not in the market for a new one just yet.
Nor are they in the market for a new kicker, as Shaun Suisham is under a multi-year contract. He actually boasts, quite easily, the highest accuracy rating in converting field goals in team history. He has converted over 90 percent of his attempts in all but one season with the team thus far. He may be getting up there in age, as is Warren, but they’re not dead yet.
The one area in which the Steelers appear to be looking for legitimate competition, and the one special teams position that could likely even be regarded as in play in the very late rounds of the draft, would be punter, where they have had instability for a number of years.
Brad Wing filled the role last season, posting a bottom-feeding punting average, with a middling net average that was bolstered by a strong coverage unit. Still, he figures to be back in camp competing for his job.
The Steelers signed Richie Leone to a futures contract back in January. He spent his rookie camp with the Ravens after a moderately successful college career. They also recently added Jordan Berry, though it’s likely that at least part of the reason for signing him is because of his eligibility for rookie minicamp.