2021 Offseason Questions: Is Punter The Only Specialist Position In Contention?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: Will punter be the only specialist position in contention this preseason?

As it’s currently situated, the Steelers are setting up to have at least two players at every specialist position, following the addition of Sam Sloman at kicker. They already had long snapper Christian Kuntz on the roster as well, and of course, they drafted punter Pressley Harvin III.

It’s obviously the case that Harvin was drafted to challenge Jordan Berry for the punting job. But what about the other positions? Now, I’m not about to suggest that Sloman has much of a chance of unseating Chris Boswell, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, but is Canaday’s job really secure?

He has been with the team for the past four years since beating out sixth-round pick Colin Holba in replacing Greg Warren, but the truth is he’s never established himself as more than a middling performer.

Kuntz has been around the team for a couple of stints in the past two years now, and has been on the roster throughout this offseason. Now that he’ll have a full offseason and a preseason, does he actually have a shot at competing for the long snapper position?

Truth be told, I don’t know if the likely change at punter helps or hurts the proposition of also changing the long snapper, but I could see it going either way, I suppose. A new long snapper would be more the punter’s concern than Boswell’s, since the kicker never actually fields the ball himself, though he does have to be in-rhythm with the snap.

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