The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this league year with 12 players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, and another three players who would be restricted free agents. They ended up retaining five of those unrestricted free agents in addition to tendering all three of their restricted free agents.
Pittsburgh also added help from outside of the organization at running back, but suffered two free agency losses, one to another team and the other to retirement. The Steelers also released two players, while five of their unrestricted free agents remain unsigned.
The organization has been clear throughout recent weeks that the organization has essentially wrapped up all meaningful free agent activities. Perhaps there may be a modest addition or re-signing or two in the secondary between now and the draft, but now is a good time to take a look back and see where each position started at the beginning of the process and where it is now leading up to the draft.
Position: Tight End
Total Positional Figure: 5
Offseason additions: 1 (1 Reserve/Future Signing)
Offseason losses: 0
Heath Miller: Once a Pro Bowl-caliber player, Heath Miller’s skills have diminished with age, no doubt, but he remains without question a starting-quality tight end who can do just about anything asked of him. He may not get many yards after the catch any longer, but he remains a reliable target, and his ability to block any position, from any position, is invaluable.
Matt Spaeth: The Steelers have really seen the value that Matt Spaeth presents over the course of the past 20 or so games in the past two seasons. That’s because he missed the first 12 games of the 2013 season. When he got into the lineup, he upgraded the running game, and helped take it to the next level last season.
Will Johnson: Though he was brought to the team as a fullback, Will Johnson took most of his snaps last season as an in-line blocker, and is thus for these purposes regarded as a tight end. Of course, he remains able to line up in the backfield.
Rob Blanchflower: Last year’s seventh-round draft pick dealt with injury during training camp, which slowed his progress a bit. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad, and it’s too early to tell what, if anything, he will be able to offer this season or down the line, although he did show some potential during the preseason.
Players Not Retained:
Michael Palmer: While Michael Palmer served his purpose for two seasons as a special teams player and a jack of all trades, master of none on offense, it appears for now that his time with the Steelers is over. It teams more likely that they add through the draft than re-sign him at this point.
Michael Egnew (Reserve/Future): Michael Egnew has put in two years in the league in Miami, playing 16 games in 2013 year with five starts. He did not play last season. A former third-round draft pick, Egnew has never really shown the necessary development to stick, but the Steelers will give him a chance.
Notes: Both Miller and Spaeth are under contract for the next two seasons, but both are nearing the end of their careers, being on the wrong side of 30. The Steelers have been looking hard at the tight end draft class this year, from top to bottom, so it would be surprising not to see them come away with one at some point during the draft.