‘I have a feeling what he was feeling’: Steelers long snapper Christian Kuntz on watching Bengals backup


The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t going to feel sorry for the Cincinnati Bengals just because of how their game turned out Sunday.

Lost your long snapper mid-game, huh? Yeah. That stinks. Tough luck. Been there. Done that. Too bad.

Remember when James Harrison had to replace an injured Greg Warren in 2008? He sailed a snap over punter Mitch Berger’s head for a safety that ended up tying a game the New York Giants eventually won.

On Sunday, Bengals long snapper Clark Harris suffered a torn bicep against the Steelers. That forced reserve tight end Mitchell Wilcox into action as the long snapper. A few of his snaps on place kicks were, understandably, too slow and off target.

That resulted in a blocked extra point by Minkah Fitzpatrick to force overtime and a 29-yard field goal miss by Evan McPherson.

Maybe one person on the Steelers has a little empathy for what happened to the Bengals Sunday. That’s Steelers long snapper Christian Kuntz.

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Kuntz feels bad about how the Bengals lost. But those kickers, snappers and punters have their own tight fraternities across the league. And Kuntz didn’t like seeing Harris go down with an injury.

“It was unfortunate for Clark. I feel bad for him. I hope he is alright. But that’s the game,” Kuntz said.

As it turns out, Clark had to go on injured reserve. Cal Adomitis was called up from the practice squad. Like Kuntz, Adomitis played both high school and college football in the Pittsburgh area. Kuntz went to Chartiers Valley and Duquesne. Adomitis attended Central Catholic before going to Pitt.

Kuntz never got thrust into a game as a long snapper on an emergency basis like Wilcox did. The first time he took the field in that role at Duquesne, he was established as a snapper for the Dukes, as well as a standout linebacker. But he can empathize for what the nerves must have been like for Wilcox in that position.

“I have a feeling what he was feeling. The adrenaline. Thinking about it, it’s hard,” Kuntz said.

Yeah. It is hard.

Hundredths-of-a-second on your snaps may be the difference between making you a 10-year NFL veteran and someone who doesn’t even get a tryout. It’s a highly specialized position. So much so that I can’t think of an equivalent position in any other sport to it.

Seriously. Give me another position in another sport that’s like long snapper. One that has so little name recognition that still leaves you relatively obscure to many fans in your own city, let alone totally anonymous to just about any fan of a different team in any other market.


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According to Sportrac, the highest paid long snapper in terms of average annual value is Josh Harris of the Chargers at $1.4 million per year. That’s 0.61% of the team’s salary cap.

Quiz time! Name the long snappers of the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals without looking them up. I’m 0-3, how about you?

Yet they are so important to the operation of scoring plays and change of possession plays on punts that if you lose your long snapper mid-game, the final score can blow up in your face just like it did for the Bengals.

I asked Steelers coach Mike Tomlin if conversations have been had about keeping a player on the team or practice squad or dressing an extra guy on game days who has long snapping ability for just such an emergency.

“Rest assured that the conversation has been had and there are procedural things in place, but I’m not going to outline them in this setting,” Tomlin said.

Derrek Tuszka had been practicing his long snapping skills at Saint Vincent College before he was released. Derek Watt is believed to be the emergency candidate on game days. John Leglue might be, too, but he’s on the practice squad right now.

I’ve long thought that the NFL should allow teams to dress backup specialists on game day — at least kickers and long snappers — as emergency injury replacements. Sort of like the third quarterback used to be. They wouldn’t be allowed to step on the field unless they are an emergency injury replacement, and if they play, the starter can’t come back into the game.

Each NFL game is so valuable to the standings, and if it can be ruined when a guy making less than 1% of the salary cap gets hurt, maybe allowing an emergency buffer for clubs on game days isn’t such a bad idea.

“(Long snapping) is pretty key in an operation,” Kuntz said. “Everyone in (the Steelers locker room) already knew that, and that’s all that really matters. People outside don’t know the value of it. That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that people here know. And they do.”

They certainly know in Cincinnati as well.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.


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