As we’ve done in previous years, we’re taking a look at those Pittsburgh Steelers under futures contracts for the 2020 offseason. The ones who spent most if not the entire year on the practice squad and what we can expect from them during training camp (hopefully) into the regular season.
Christian Kuntz/LS-LB – 6’1 227
The more hats you wear, the more value you have. That mantra is important for any non-elite NFL player and doubly true for any fringe guy looking to hang onto a final roster spot. That’s why Christian Kuntz learned how to long snap in addition to being a pass rusher. And it’s probably why he’s still on the fringes of an NFL roster as opposed to being stuck on an endless tryout circuit.
Not that Kuntz’s ride to the NFL has been smooth. Anything but. A local kid out of Duquesne who put up big numbers, exiting with a school-record 30.5 sacks, he predictably went undrafted in 2017. The New England Patriots signed him for the briefest time possible. Added on August 28th, cut on the 29th after the Pats traded for LB Marquis Flowers. I’m not even sure if the dude even got a playbook. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
He floated around on the street for over a year before the Jacksonville Jaguars inked him to a practice squad deal in late December of 2018. They carried him through the summer until releasing him in the middle of June. He remained unsigned through the vast majority of training camp until Pittsburgh picked Kuntz up on their last day of Latrobe in 2019 after the team cut LB JT Jones and CB Jermaine Ponder. Which was, sadly enough, the last time we’ve been out at St. Vincent College for a camp diary report. Our notes on Kuntz that day was light but needing depth, he was thrown into team sessions right away, working at ROLB in addition to long snapping in the early portions of practice.
Kuntz saw play time in the preseason finale, even notching a sack against the Carolina Panthers. It very much fell into the category of effort/coverage sack but still a cool moment. Small bit of payoff for all that work to reach the NFL.
The Steelers released him at final cutdowns and he remained a free agent for the 2019 season. Like so many others during the time, he caught on with the upstart XFL league, playing for the Dallas Renegades. When that league folded, Pittsburgh brought Kuntz back in March of 2020. But new COVID rules forced teams to trim their rosters from 90 to 80 midway through camp. Most teams, Steelers included, opted to do that sooner than later and Kuntz was one of eight expendable players cut August 2nd.
They signed him back to the practice squad in late November after a practice squad spot was freed up following Zach Gentry’s placement on IR, TE Kevin Rader getting called up to the 53, but was released two days before Christmas as the Steelers’ roster shuffling continued. He came back one week later to the practice squad before signing a futures deal on January 2nd. Now he’ll try to survive the summer.
If Kuntz didn’t have the dual value of playing linebacker and special teams, he may have fallen out of the league entirely. During these COVID times, the Steelers felt more compelled to carry extra specialists on the expanded practice squad roster, a quick Plan B if a starting kicker/punter/long snapper had to go on the COVID list at the last moment. If those rules stay for 2021, which I imagine they will, Kuntz’s chances of hanging around get an extra boost. Still, despite starting LS Kameron Canaday frankly not having a good season in 2020, Kuntz doesn’t have any serious path to playing in a regular season game.