You probably knew this was coming at some point, but now it’s that time: the obligatory defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to draft a long snapper, even after said draft pick was beaten by a first-year long snapper.
Okay, look, it’s not like Jared Retkofsky is still just waiting in the wings. If you remember that name, good on you. He is the player that the Steelers signed to long snap for them after their veteran long snapper, Greg Warren, suffered knee injuries in both 2008 and 2009.
Originally undrafted out of Texas Christian in 2007, the furniture mover was in camp for the Steelers that year, and also spent time with the Seahawks, so they already had him on speed dial. Retkofsky, by the way, was 6’5”, 260 pounds.
Outside of those two stints, the long snapper position was one that the team didn’t have to think about for over a decade from 2005 to 2016. But it was because of those two stints, likely, that his career is now over, as those knee injuries have caught up with him, and he can’t risk continuing to play without potentially doing himself long-term harm.
Facing the prospect of having to find a new long snapper, something they haven’t done since 2005, the Steelers made sure to give quality effort in the pursuit, and in doing so they found two long snappers with rare size and either pedigree or experience to compete with one another, rather than simply handing an unproven player the job.
So they used a sixth-round pick on Colin Holba, a 6’4”, 248-pounder out of Louisville, and they provided him competition with Kameron Canaday, a 6’4”, 245-pounder who won the job for the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie last year, but who was released after three games.
In all of these players is a clear pattern, long snappers with bigger frames. And that isn’t so easy to find. Soon after the draft, I wrote an article in which I analyzed the long snappers around the league. The majority of them were 6’2” or shorter and under 240 pounds.
Regarding the specific sixth-round pick used to draft Holba, I also noted that teams who do draft a long snapper don’t wait until the seventh round to do so. Since 2000, seven have been drafted, all in the sixth round or earlier, including three earlier than the sixth round.
While the Steelers obviously drafted Holba with the hope and expectation that he would win the job, more broadly, they did so in order to do everything they can to ensure that they will not be caught short-handed. He did not win the job, but he was part of a competition that will have made the position stronger for it.
Bottom line, it sucks when a draft pick doesn’t make the team, and it sucks even more when that draft pick was at a position that usually doesn’t get drafted. But given the situation they were in with Warren, it’s understandable why they took that step in trying to find a solution.