They might not be thought of much as long as they are doing their jobs well, but the specialist positions on the roster are, under the right circumstances, about as important as any other. The bottom line is that when they have a task to accomplish, it must be done successfully. Miss a go-ahead field goal, shank a punt, or botch a snap, and it could decide the game.
Because all three positions often work so closely together—with the punter typically functioning as the holder for the kicker on extra point and field goal tries—it stands to reason that they are frequently found to be a close-knit group, and that is exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers’ trio has become over the course of the past two seasons.
But the band was broken up yesterday with Pittsburgh releasing 13th-year veteran long snapper Greg Warren with a failed physical designation after questions about jeopardizing his long-term health arise should he continue to try to play, evidently stemming from damage done after tearing his ACL twice about a decade ago.
Warren may have been the old man of the group, but he was instrumental in forging the bond that developed between himself and young counterparts Jordan Perry, the punter, and Chris Boswell, the placekicker.
Neither of them were ordained, by any means. Berry was not the first punter that they signed to challenge then-incumbent Brad Wing in 2015. That would be Richie Leone. Berry had to beat out Leone in order to get an opportunity to have a camp competition with Wing, which he won.
Boswell’s path was even more improbably, and it took the severing of another integral specialist tie when Shaun Suisham, who had been kicking for the Steelers since 2010, tore his ACL. They signed Garrett Hartley to replace him, who significantly injured his hamstring to the point where he joined Suisham on injured reserve. At that point, the team decided to stop screwing around and traded for an experienced veteran kicker in Josh Scobee.
But Scobee flamed out in four games, and Boswell was the kicker that they liked most from a group of tryout players—the second group of tryout kickers that year, the first of which Hartley won. Yet he has been here since, and the trio of Warren, Berry, and Boswell developed a bond since then in perfecting their craft together.
It’s no surprise that both of them paid tribute to Warren upon the news of his release yesterday, sharing their thoughts on their mentor of sort on Instagram.
“Tough day for Steeler nation with the GOAT having to call it day”, Berry wrote. “Thankful I got the chance to have him guide the way through my first couple of years in the league!”.
Boswell was more direct, beginning with a simple, “Thank you Greg”.
“Thank you for taking me under your wing and showing me how to be a Steeler on and off the field”, he continued. “You spoiled many specialists in your 12 years with perfect snaps and I’m just grateful that I was able to be a part of your career for the last 2 years”.
Let this be a lesson that you never forget: kickers—and punters, and long snappers—are people too. They hurt as much as the rest of us, and especially so when they lose one from their own fraternity.