It has not been too far off from a full decade since the last time that the Pittsburgh Stelers took the field without the services of long snapper Greg Warren. The long-time veteran suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2008 and 2009, but for the past seven seasons, and for the three seasons prior, he never missed a game, or a snap.
The 2017 season, however, will offer a brave new world in which every snap on special teams runs the risk of being an adventure, since Warren will no longer be there, his career essentially coming to a conclusion this offseason as a result of the long-term effects of those season-ending knee injuries.
Warren was always Plan A, but when it was determined that it would not be worth the risk to his long-term health to attempt to continue playing, the Steelers released him with a failed physical designation. So Plan A did not work out. And neither did Plan B, which was, essentially, draft a new Greg Warren and plug and play him for the next decade or so.
That plug and play guy was supposed to be Colin Holba, whom the Steelers used a sixth-round pick on, but the rookie lost out on the competition for the job with Kameron Canaday, a first-year long snapper who last season already won, and then lost, a starting job with the Cardinals.
The 2016 undrafted free agent won the long snapping job in training camp and entered the regular season with Arizona as their starter, but he only lasted three games before he was released. In that span, one botched snap resulted in a recovery for the opposing team for a touchdown and another low snap resulted in missing a potential game-tying field goal.
Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians was not particularly complimentary about Canaday as he sent him out the door, but he is now the Steelers’ starter at long snapper with Holba now looking for a job. It’s not entirely clear what he did to lose the job or what Canaday did to win it, but the draft pick was the only one with a snap that actually produced a miss during the preseason.
Neither of the two, from my layman’s eye appear to possess the consistency of accuracy or velocity that kept Warren around for well over a decade, and I worry that we may be entering a period of time in which fans are actually going to have to think about the snap on punts and field goals.
Imagine, for example, that the Steelers score what should be the go-ahead touchdown with time expiring during regulation in a game. All they need to do to secure the victory is to complete the point-after attempt.
Would you have even given it much thought a year ago? What about now? It’s not particularly comforting to think that a player who was cut because he messed up two snaps that contributed to losses in a three-game span was the better option.