The calendar is quickly flipping through the month of April, and each day brings us closer and closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, teams should have by and large accomplished everything that they have set out to do in terms of free agent roster building, which means that their sole focus is now preparing for the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally been able to clear the Troy Polamalu hurdle and settle into their pre-draft roster. We have broken down the Steelers’ moves at each position in free agency in terms of re-signings, free agent additions and subtractions, cuts, and retirements, so now we begin the final process: determining draft needs.
We complete our look at the offensive skill positions by examining the group of tight ends that the Steelers currently have on the roster, and what their status is for the future, as they do not figure to have much in the way of long-term investments.
Clearly, the top of the depth chart at tight end is and has been owned by Heath Miller for the past decade. The former 2005 first-round draft pick is entering his 11th season in the NFL and is one of only two Steelers on the offensive side of the ball remaining with two championship rings.
The 2014 season was a solid one for Miller, and he demonstrated clearly that he still has gas left in the tank, though he also showed that he doesn’t quite get the same gas mileage as he once did after much wear and tear over the years, including an ACL tear.
The veteran caught 66 passes for 761 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were a nice upgrade over the previous year. He is under contract for two more seasons, however, and at his age, it’s unlikely that he plays beyond that.
Second tight end Matt Spaeth was re-signed to a two-year contract this offseason, and he is not much younger than Miller. The Steelers could very well be looking at a situation in which they have no quality tight ends a year or two from now depending on how things go.
Behind Miller and Spaeth are Will Johnson, who is more of an h-back, as well as Rob Blanchflower and Michael Egnew. Blanchflower spent his rookie season on the practice squad and was re-signed to a futures contract after showing some potential in the preseason, but who knows what his ceiling is.
The Steelers don’t need to add a tight end for the 2015 season, by any means, so we’re not looking for instant impact, but there’s no doubt about it that tight end will be a big need in a year or two if they don’t address it now.
Johnson is a nice player to have, but he’ll never be a one or two tight end. Blanchflower’s ceiling may be a poor man’s Spaeth with better hands. While the first round for the position might be out of the question in terms of value, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a day two addition to the unit.