While it’s common for fans of NFL teams to question draft selections every year, sometimes it’s worth waiting a little while to pass judgement on the picks after they’re made.
When Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert used a sixth-round selection on former Louisville long snapper Colin Holba during the 2017 NFL Draft, a large portion of the fan base collectively scratched their heads in somewhat disbelief that a pick was used on that position and especially considering that at the time, veteran long snapper Greg Warren, while up there in age, was presumably healthy after being re-signed earlier in the offseason.
After initially being stunned by the Steelers selection of Holba on the sixth-round of the draft, I quickly wondered if Warren was indeed as healthy as I had initially perceived him to be. In fact, I somewhat cracked a joke on Twitter about Warren’s future right after the pick was made, as you can see below.
Maybe Greg Warren is currently praying about whether he'll play in 2017 after signing his contract. #Steelers
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) April 29, 2017
Despite Colbert claiming that Warren was healthy “right now” almost immediately after Holba was drafted, it was easy for me to keep my trusty tin foil hat well within my reach and especially due to the way the Steelers general manager addressed the question related to the topic. On Thursday, the Steelers release of Warren with a failed physical designation now makes it very clear that the team had concerns about his health and immediate playing future ahead of the draft taking place.
As the late, great Paul Harvey always used to say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
Even a few days after the selection of Holba, Colbert gave a few hints that Warren’s time in Pittsburgh could be coming to an end sooner rather than later during an interview on 93.7 The Fan.
“Yes, yes,” Colbert said when asked if Warren is indeed healthy. “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.”
Perhaps Colbert really did think that Warren might ultimately be able to make it one more season and maybe come draft time the organization was still waiting for the veteran to get a second or third opinion on whatever may or may not have been ailing him. Regardless, there had to be some level of uncertainty regarding Warren’s immediate future and because of that, the decision was made to draft Holba just in case. That proactive move, if indeed that’s what it was, turned out to be a solid one as we sit here in the middle of May.
While Colbert could have rolled the dice that Holba, who was regarded as the best long snapper in this year’s draft class, may have slid to them a round later, it obviously wasn’t worth the risk in his eyes. Besides, and as Colbert pointed out right after this year’s draft concluded, most of the time players who are drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds fail to make the 53-man roster out of training camp regardless of the position that they play.
“We have drafted guys in the sixth and seventh rounds that don’t make the team and maybe they are practice squad types,” Colbert explained at the time. “So, the competition will be there. If he [Holba] makes it, he makes it. If not, I don’t know if we would have a guy on the practice squad, but we certainly just wanted to have that option. As these guys come along, there aren’t too many draftable long snappers.”
Warren’s statement following his Thursday release also adds a little more clarity to the situation.
“I had full intentions of playing this upcoming season, but in light of new information I’ve recently received from my doctors relating to a past injury, it has been determined that trying to compete in the 2017 season may be a risk to my long-term health,” Warren said.
For now, Holba is slated to be Warren’s immediate replacement and hopefully we talk about him moving forward as often as we did Warren over the course of the last 12 seasons, which wasn’t a lot. Whether that’s ultimately the case is really insignificant at this point, in my honest opinion.
Draft picks, especially late-round ones, are made with the idea that the selected players can cheaply fill immediate or future needs of a team. Colbert’s selection of Holba did just that and from this point forward his drafting need not be criticized even if he fails miserably at succeeding Warren and especially being as we all now know “the rest of the story.”
Colbert put it best a few weeks ago during the aforementioned radio interview when asked about the criticism he’s received from fans concerning him spending a sixth-round draft pick on Holba.
“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.
It’s obvious right now that Colbert doesn’t take such a snap for granted.