The 2014 season saw the Pittsburgh Steelers on the rise, finishing with an 11-5 record and a division title following two straight seasons of missing the playoffs with 8-8 records. They finished off the regular season with four straight victories, but suffered a disappointing Wildcard round loss against the Ravens without their star running back.
Nobody is saying that the Steelers, however, are a finished product. Not even the Super Bowl champion is a finished product after a season concludes, because every team undergoes a series of changes throughout the offseason via free agency, retirement, and the draft, in addition to a myriad of other factors.
Pittsburgh is certainly no different, of course, and they are expected to see a number of new faces in the starting lineup for the third straight season. One of the questions that the Steelers must consider heading into free agency is how they want their tight end depth chart to shape up for the 2015 season and beyond.
Whether by intention or happenstance, Pittsburgh has actually set themselves up to be able to pursue a variety of avenues with respect to the future of the position this offseason. Both Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer are pending free agents, and even Will Johnson is a restricted free agent.
Then there is the elephant in the room, which is how many years exactly Heath Miller has left. He is under contract for two more seasons, but it’s not guaranteed that he will see through the life of that contract, or if he will finish it out in the same capacity as he now sees.
That could depend on how the Steelers choose to handle the position over the course of the next couple of months. There is a robust free agent class at the position, running the gamut of both talent and variety. There are potential starters and journeymen, as well as pass-catching tight ends and blocking tight ends.
What is clear is that the Steelers intend to address the position this year. That was strongly indicated by the significant contingent from the organization that focused on the tight ends at the Combine.
It’s likely that the team will, of course, address the tight end position both through agency and the draft, even if that means merely re-signing Spaeth, who has proven to be a reliable asset in the running game—when healthy. But he is a player who would be happy to stay put in Pittsburgh.
The Heath Miller question may or may not answer itself depending on how the offseason breaks. If they find themselves in a position to sign a player in free agency that they believe could start for them by 2016 or so, or if, for example, they find that tight end is the best position to address in the first round based on how the draft breaks, it would help give the organization a clearer picture of where they stand both with their veteran and with the position as a whole.