Player: Michael Palmer
Position: Tight End
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $570,000
2014 Season Breakdown: When the Steelers suffered a rash of injuries at the tight end position in training camp during the summer of 2013—each of their top three tight ends was nursing an ailment of some degree or another—the front office elected to sign Michael Palmer off the street to serve as a body during drills, simply because the body count was running low.
Palmer was a the blocking complement to Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta for a couple of years before he found that his services were no longer needed and he was looking for a job in August. He found one in Pittsburgh largely because of his contributions on special teams during the preseason, which allowed the Steelers to carry four tight ends on the roster out of training camp.
Palmer has been a fixture on special teams over the past two seasons, though not often standing out one way or the other during any given game. On offense, it’s rare that he sees the field at all, let alone for a healthy number of snaps, unless there is an injury involved.
As a receiver, Palmer has caught two passes in his two seasons with the Steelers, one going for eight yards in 2013, and the other, a one-yard touchdown pass this past season.
Of course, he is more known—such that he is known at all—for his blocking, which is why the vast majority of his 30 snaps in the past season came on running plays. Grading on a pass or fail basis, he won more battles than he lost, which is about as much as you could expect for a player who is essentially the fourth tight end behind Will Johnson—occasionally even a fifth option behind Mike Adams.
His most extensive look came in the penultimate game of the season, which Matt Spaeth, the team’s best run blocker at the position, sat out with an elbow injury. Though the team as a whole did not run particularly well, he also did not embarrass himself—unlike his offensive pass interference penalty on the one-yard line early in the season.
Free Agency Outlook: Much like last season, there’s no good reason to believe that there will be much if any market for the services of Palmer, whose primary role has become that of a no name special teams player. He has squeaked onto the 53-man roster for two seasons now, but his time may be up.
The Steelers have Rob Blanchflower on the practice squad, are likely to re-sign Spaeth, and could very well be in the market for a tight end high in the draft, if the value presents itself. While Palmer has been serviceable in his two seasons, his usefulness—due to lack of other options—may have expired. But it wouldn’t hurt to have him in camp all the same.