If you’re still one of several fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers who is still questioning the team’s decision to draft a long snapper in the sixth-round over the weekend, general manager Kevin Colbert has a message for you.
“Those same people that are asking, I hope they remember that if we’re lining up for a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl and we want to never take that snap for granted,” Colbert said during a Tuesday interview on 93.7 The Fan when questioned about the team selecting long snapper Colin Holba in the sixth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Colbert went on to explain why the team decided to select Holba, who played his college football at Louisville and was considered the best at his position by many analysts ahead of this year’s draft.
“In college football, today, most of the long snappers are 6-1, 215-220-pounds and most of them are walk-ons because the rules in college football allow for – you can get away with a smaller guy because they’re not involved as much in the protection,” said Colbert. “They have different rules protecting them. So, when a guy comes along that is of that size and not only the ability to snap, but the ability to also hold up in protection, both as a punt snapper and a long snapper, really, it’s our obligation to make sure that we have that position covered.”
Colbert continued on with his reason for drafting a long snapper this year.
“Greg Warren has been solid as a rock for us for a lot of years, but he’s 35 years old and you have to prepare for his eventual decline as well,” Colbert said. “So, if you can provide competition for a very critical position, you want to do that as soon as possible in that situation. The other factor is, the snapper, holder, kicker, they all have to work in unison and you like that group to be working sooner than later so that if we make a switch they’ve been together. So, really, at any point in any draft you’re always looking to add players that make sense at that point and to us, a snapper in that situation made sense more than any other position.”
Colbert was then asked if veteran long snapper Greg Warren is currently healthy.
“Yes, yes,” Colbert said. “And again, he’s 35 years old. It’s no secret he’s in a declining state as we all are as we get older. So, you always worry about players hitting the wall. We talk about it all the time and not that you can predict that, but it is more predictable when guys are older. So, if you have a chance to add a guy, you really have to do it.
“New England did it two years ago in the fifth-round. I forget which team took a kid named Landis last year in the sixth-round. So, it’s always, it’s there, and these guys that come along that have, and I hate to say in the old days, because I’m old, but position players used to do the snapping. Bruce Matthews, for instance. And those days have disappeared because what’s going on in college football. So, when you see a guy come along that is of this nature and you have the opportunity to get them, I think you’re almost obligated to do it.”
Colbert was later asked if he’d be able to tell if Warren had hit that proverbially wall during training camp practices.
“Yeah, I think you could tell once you start into the coverage-phase of things which would be then,” Colbert said. “But again, if that unit’s not working together, you’re always at risk of losing that continuity. That’s why we have a preference to have the punter to be the holder. I’ve been in situations where the backup quarterback was the holder and it was always unnerving.
“We had a great kicker in Detroit named Jason Hanson and we tried to use David Krieg as a holder one year and Jason, for as good as he was, he never got comfortable working with David because they didn’t work in practice. It was always a rushed kind of thing at the end and those guys, it doesn’t seem like they do a lot, but like I said, if they have to hit a game-winner, it all starts with the snap. So, really, they’re specialists just like the kickers and punters and we value them.”
We’ll have to wait several more months to find out if Holba can unseat Warren, who has been the team’s long snapper since 2005. For all we know, Holba but turn out to be the Antonio Brown of long snappers.