Mike Tomlin Rides Rookie Tight Ends In Blocking Drill

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed draftable grades on both rookie tight ends Rob Blanchflower and Eric Waters. They ended up drafting Blanchfower with their final pick of the draft in the seventh round, and still landed Waters as an undrafted free agent.

The Steelers seem to like both young tight ends well enough, who are more in the traditional mold of a receiver/blocker than is David Paulson, but one has to wonder if there’s room for one of them with Will Johnson moving to tight end.

If yesterday was any indication, head coach Mike Tomlin wants these young players to force the team to make room on the roster.

Dale Lolley writes that “the coaching staff really worked rookie tight ends Rob Blanchflower and Eric Waters over” yesterday in practice during run blocking drills, continuously calling them up to re-do reps.

According to Lolley, the two rookie tight ends took the “majority” of the reps in one-on-one drill against the linebackers:

Waters looks to be a quick study. He’ll lose a rep to a guy once but then bounce back and win the next one against the same guy.

Blanchflower, who’s bigger, was scolded for getting too high in his blocks. He seems to be a quick study as well.

After practice, the coaches had those two working against defensive ends doing the same drills.

Craig Wolfley also took notice of the drill from yesterday and offered his own thoughts on the two young tight ends from a former offensive lineman’s perspective:

Blanchflower found himself in the steely gaze of Mike Tomlin. The poor young man must have run six, seven, maybe eight reps in a row. Mike was not happy, and he wanted to keep him going. He finally kind of got on a little roll and won a couple at the end. He’s got a ways to go. He’s a tall guy. He’s got to get a lower pad level. He’s got to learn to get his hands inside. When you get your hands outside, that’s a flag. He’s got to be one of these guys that consistently works to get that inside position.

The guy that I like, who’s kind of flying under the radar, is Eric Waters. He felt that he was not utilized correctly, that they didn’t throw him the rock, that all they had him do was block. Well gadzooks, man, he blocks pretty dadgum good. I think he ought to stick with that, because he’s a good flat backer, he rolls over that front foot, rips to rack with the fist, puts the forehead right in your chin, and it’s an old school blocking style that I love. So, anyhow, I like the Waters.

The third-year pro Paulson himself doesn’t appear to be in the most stable position himself. Continuing where he left off at the end of last season, Paulson now finds himself fourth on the depth chart behind Michael Palmer, who himself is no Pro Bowler.

There’s still a ways to go before the tight end competition is solved. How Johnson factors into the numbers game is yet to be determined, but I would imagine that Blanchflower and Waters should be at least battling for a spot on the practice squad, if not the 53-man roster, come September.

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