While a lot can still change, it was made official yesterday that Christian Kuntz has made the Pittsburgh Steelers’ initial 53-man roster, indicating that he will be their new long snapper after they released Kameron Canaday, the man who has occupied the position for the past five years.
The Steelers entered training camp with us on the outside knowing they were in for a punting battle between incumbent Jordan Berry and seventh-round rookie Pressley Harvin III. Not many suspected that we would be treated to not one but two specialist battles and that both would result in new victors.
But Kuntz’s is a story of perseverance, and dedication to the dream of professional football. A 2017 college free agent out of Pittsburgh’s own Duquesne, he has spent time at multiple positions, with four different NFL organizations, with Pittsburgh being a two-time destination, and had a stint in the XFL last year as well.
A high school multi-sport athlete, he played outside linebacker in college, where he would compile 248 career tackles with 71.5 for loss, 30.5 sacks, and seven forced fumbles, becoming the first player in team history to receive All-American honors three times.
While he already began working as a long snapper while still at Duquesne, it wasn’t until an underwhelming one-day stint with the New England Patriots in August of his rookie season in 2017, after going undrafted and unsigned, that he decided to focus on that skill set.
“It’s something that takes time to perfect”, he told Chuck Curti of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last year when speaking about his experiences working the position in the XFL. “You have to learn the footwork, snap and get your head up quick. It’s definitely something I worked countless hours on”.
Kuntz would go on to spend a couple of months in the early offseason, through OTAs, with the Denver Broncos in 2018, and wouldn’t get another job until he was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad in late December. He was waived in late June 2019 and finally signed with the Steelers in mid-August in 2019.
At the time, Pittsburgh viewed him as a multi-positional player, allowing him to work at both linebacker and long snapper, and he even recorded a sack during the preseason that year, though of course he did not make the team.
His background as a linebacker helped him win the long snapper job for the Dallas Renegades in 2020 in the XFL because they preferred his ability to play on special teams coverage units, and that’s no doubt one of the reasons he is the Steelers’ long snapper today.
The COVID-19 pandemic had something of a silver lining for him as well, as morbid as it might be to say, because it afforded him the opportunity to spend time on the Steelers’ practice squad last year as an extra long snapper.
After spending the better part of two months at the end of last season regularly working with Danny Smith in an in-season setting, along with kicker Mathew Wright and punter Corliss Waitman, he gained valuable experience that set him up to, at the age of 27, win his first NFL job on the 53-man roster this year, four years after graduating. You don’t make it to that many training camps without ever winning a job unless you have a genuine passion for the game.
Not a lot of people are going to pay much mind to a long snapper or his story, but it is a lesson in perseverance. He could have given up on his dream numerous times along the way. We have a member here who employed him in the offseason and lauds his personality and work ethic, even if he breaks some equipment from time to time. But he may never need that job again now, and I’m sure his former boss won’t begrudge him the opportunity.