The Pittsburgh Steelers did not exactly receive a windfall in terms of monetary replenishment when they released veteran long snapper Greg Warren with a failed physical designation, which presumably means that he is subsequently going to retire after 12 years and two torn ACLs with the team.
But it does mean that they are going to have to move on at a position at which they have had stability far more often than not over the course of the past decade-plus. While a chart from Pro Football Focus indicated that Warren’s snap accurately was slightly below average the past two years (and comfortably above average the previous two years), there is a reason that he was respected around the league, and his replacement will have big shoes to fill.
Luckily for the Steelers, they had the foresight to acquire something with feet big enough to give it a go. They drafted Colin Holba in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft in part because they believe that he has rare size for the position that is going to allow him to be a greater contributor in the blocking and covering duties that are often ignored from the position. Warren himself didn’t exactly rack up the tackles over the course of his career.
But the transition comes at an interesting time within the Steelers’ specialist room, because they are just now seemingly developing two budding talents with long-term potential at the kicker and punter positions in third-year players Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry, respectively.
Both players paid tribute to Warren after he was released, which I talked about yesterday, and they credited him with helping them break into the league. Boswell said that he “spoiled” specialists for over a decade with his snaps.
Now Boswell and Berry will (most likely) be continuing their development with Holba snapping them the ball, and this young group of specialists will have the opportunity to grow together, perhaps over the course of the next decade.
That would certainly be a welcome twist given some of the musical chairs that the Steelers have dealt with at both positions at various times over the course of the past decade, while Warren was the lone measure of stability in the room.
But both Boswell and Berry look as though they could stick around for a while. Both of them still have room to improve, to be sure—particularly Berry—but their security as a group working together day in and day out will strengthen not only their bond, but also their rapport on the field, which is a critical aspect of successful execution.
Holba was known for being very precise in his snaps, so the hope is that he will be able to learn quickly just where Berry and Boswell want the ball placed, and that he will be able to consistently put it there. Now that we know that Warren will not be in the picture, however, I do find myself intrigued by this young group of players.