Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end Rob Blanchflower got an extended look in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers, playing 24 snaps, which was the most work that he got in any of the four games. It’s likely that he would have made it to the practice squad without this performance, but he was able to put some good work on tape. Considering he’s likely to make the roster a year from now, it’s worth taking a good look at his efforts in this game.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Steelers were in a second and two with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Blanchflower was lined up as the single tight end in the 21 alignment on the right side of the offensive line.
His blocking on linebacker A.J. Klein was tenacious, sticking with him wherever he tried to move. Bell got the first down, but he might have gotten more if he didn’t end up running into Blanchflower.
Two plays later in a second and four, the Steelers moved to an 11 personnel look with Blanchflower on the line to the right. The handoff went to LeGarrette Blount, but he could only gain one yard in large part because of Blanchflower. He was slow off the snap, beaten by Wes Horton after trying to cut block him, and the defensive end made the tackle after one yard.
Midway through the third quarter, with a new quarterback in the backfield, the Steelers launched one down the field on the first play. Blanchflower was the interior tight end in a 12 look, with both lined up to the right of the line.
David Paulson went out for a pass, but Blanchflower stayed in to block, taking on Kony Ealy and showing good recovery to push him around the edge once the defensive end got around the corner.
On second and 10, Blanchflower was lined up in the backfield behind left tackle. On the snap, he pulled to the right, blocking Ealy, who along with several other defenders made the tackle after a four-yard gain.
Later on the drive, taking a deep set off right tackle, Blanchflower threw a chip on the end before going out for a pass. With pressure coming up the middle and around the left edge, the quarterback scrambled, and the tight end showed the awareness to turn upfield and look for somebody to block.
On second down, Blanchflower was in the backfield off right tackle again, this time pulling left and getting a good initial pop on the left defensive end before the defense started to close in and swarm tackle the back after a gain of four yards.
Finally, a couple plays later, Blanchflower got his chance to participate as a pass catcher, but not before throwing a chip on the end. After doing so, he turned upfield and had to reach low to stab an errant pass from a foot or so off the ground for a five-yard reception.
As you can clearly see from the plays above, Blanchflower has a lot of potential to work with, but it needs to be put together, especially after missing time with injuries. A year of reps on the practice squad will serve him well, and I expect that he’ll be on the 53-man roster next year.