It is October 26, 2008. The Steelers are on their way to a Super Bowl, but it is too early in the season to even predict or assume they will become the world champions. Long snapper Greg Warren's season suddenly ends with an ACL injury, and OLB James Harrison steps up to fill in. How hard can it be to get the ball to the punter? Pretty hard, apparently. He botches two snaps, sending one over the head of punter Mitch Berger, resulting in a safety. Though the Steelers would go on to win the Super Bowl that year, Warren's absence from the game results in a loss against the Giants.
What do long snappers do? Their job is to snap the ball long distances during punts and field goals. Perhaps a part of their anonymity is that it is such a downer to have to punt. It means the team didn't score. Long snappers initiate the process to give the ball away to the opposing team so they have a chance to put points on the board.
Entering his eleventh season, Greg Warren joined the National Football League in 2005 when snapping the ball long distances was already a rather specialized job. In fact, in 2006, a long snapper was included on the Pro Bowl roster for the first time. Before the rise of the specially-trained long snapper, teams would crosstrain undersized centers or other bulky players to fill that role. That makes sense. Although there are rules related to the opposing team's formation that protect long snappers from being hit with their head still down, long snappers are still involved in very physical plays.
An effective punt or field goal starts with a good snap. Greg Warren has been responsible for the success of numerous extra points and strong punts over the last decade. Mike Tomlin recently sang his praises, saying to the Post-Gazette, "It's a great deal of comfort when you're working with a savvy veteran like Greg. He is ridiculously consistent in terms of accuracy and velocity."
Shawn Suisham will be the Steelers' place kicker, but for punts it is unknown if Warren will be snapping the ball to Jordan Berry or Brad Wing. Since Warren's role is usually only obvious if he bungles his snap, keep in mind the critical role he plays on making Suisham and the punter look good. If the long snapper is flying under the radar, it probably means he is good at his job.