By Matthew Marczi
Player: Michael Palmer
Position: Tight End
Experience: 4 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $630,000
2013 Season Breakdown: Michael Palmer was brought into training camp because the Pittsburgh Steelers were dealing with a rash of injuries at the time. Their top tight end, Heath Miller, was of course still rehabbing from a torn ACL at the end of the 2012 season, a process that lasted into the regular season.
Aside from Miller, however, David Johnson was also still working his way back from an ACL tear of his own, which happened in the 2012 preseason. He had some type of cleanup procedure prior to training camp that kept him off the field for a bit.
Then Matt Spaeth, whom the Steelers re-signed to a three-year deal after being released by the Chicago Bears, suffered a Lisfranc injury while working on a blocking drill in training camp. He ended up missing three-fourths of the season.
The only other tight end worth mentioning that the Steelers were working with at that point was David Paulson, so it’s understandable why Palmer was brought in initially as a training camp body.
But Palmer ended up making the 53-man roster out of training camp, and he did so by virtue of his play on special teams. In one game during the preseason, he made two tackles that potentially saved long touchdown returns. That got him noticed.
Palmer was the run-blocking complement to Tony Gonzalez for a couple seasons before being released by the Atlanta Falcons. He was able to show a bit of that in spurts throughout the season during his very limited use. In fact, by season’s end he’d supplanted Paulson as the third tight end when the Steelers weren’t using Mike Adams in that role.
That’s not to say that he proved to be a great asset or performed well on every snap. In the second game against the Cincinnati Bengals, for example, he got blown off the line on a first and goal run, as he allowed the defensive end to make the stop. Plays like that stick out more when you only have 49 snaps.
Free Agency Outlook: As I look at the Steelers’ current pool of talent, I see Palmer competing with Paulson as the fourth tight end on the depth chart behind Miller, Spaeth, and Johnson. The Steelers ended up keeping four tight ends last season—partly due to injury, partly due to lack of depth at other positions—but realistically, they may be looking for a more long-term solution in the draft this year.
Perhaps not the heir-apparent to Miller, but maybe a player that can serve as the second tight end in a year or two. Either way, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add more talent to the tight end competition. He may be re-signed, but I still see him on the outside looking in.
Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark – Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ziggy Hood – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jason Worilds – Unrestricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jonathan Dwyer – Unrestricted Free Agent
Fernando Velasco – Unrestricted Free Agent
Cody Wallace – Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Allen – Unrestricted Free Agent
Stevenson Sylvester – Unrestricted Free Agent
Felix Jones – Unrestricted Free Agent
Al Woods – Unrestricted Free Agent
Plaxico Burress – Unrestricted Free Agent
LaRod Stephens-Howling – Unrestricted Free Agent
Guy Whimper – Unrestricted Free Agent