The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Greg Warren
Position: Long Snapper
Experience: 11 Years
A brief look at the Steelers’ specialist group last season paints veteran long snapper Greg Warren in a certain vintage light. Entering the 2016 season, he has more than five times the amount of NFL experience than the team’s kicker and punter do combined.
2015 was the 11 NFL season in Warren’s career, although two of those seasons included stints on injured reserve—none in the past six seasons. On the other hand, it was the first season for punter Jordan Berry, as well as his eventual counterpart, kicker Chris Boswell.
The contrast is very much a part of the value that Warren has provided for the Steelers over the course of his career. He provides the special teams unit with a sense of stability. While you want stability at every position, it’s basically the only thing that you want out of your long snapper. Snap the ball, get it into the punter’s or holder’s hands quickly and in a good spot, prevent anybody from penetrating the line. Maybe try to make a tackle every now and then, but don’t go getting yourself hurt.
It’s the sort of position whose value is only made apparent when you lack a stable presence, as the Steelers found out in 2008 when he missed nine games. In the game in which he was injured, they had their Defensive Player of the Year send a snap out of the back of the end zone for a touchback that tied a game late, which they would go on to lose.
It’s true that Warren is about as reliable as they come around the league when it comes to performing the basic tasks assigned to the long snapper position, which is why he is a yearly early re-sign, the team operating on one-year veteran-minimum contracts for the 34-year-old veteran.
But consider the parade of personnel that he has dealt with. The Steelers have had not had the same punter in consecutive seasons in several years. They went through four kickers just from the start of the 2015 preseason.
And all through that was Warren’s veteran presence, maintaining a consistent level of performance in spite of the consistently shifting personnel that he had to work with. There are a lot of moving parts for even a simple extra point, and it all starts with the long snapper getting the snap right. Which is why he will be here until he decides to retire.