With the 2015 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man offseason roster is getting pretty close to set, although there are always some late movements to balance out positional numbers or replace injured or underperforming players.
Now that the rookie class in in-house and the tryout players have either come and gone or stuck around, it’s time to take one last look at the Steelers’ roster as we head into the meat of the offseason. Next up will be the tight end position.
Heath Miller: The former Pro Bowl tight end is getting no closer to the right side of 30 with each passing year. Miller will turn 33 during the season, but as he showed last year, he can still be an effective weapon, and he had one of his most productive seasons a year ago with 66 receptions for 761 yards and three touchdowns. He is, at times, still an excellent blocker, but he has been less consistent with age, and more prone to losing at the line of scrimmage.
Matt Spaeth: Spaeth is not far behind Miller in terms of age, as he will turn 32 during the season, although, having never been a team’s top option, he certainly has more tread on the tires. Signed to a new two-year deal this offseason, the Steelers will look to continue to exploit Spaeth’s run-blocking ability as they seek to crack the top 10 in running the ball.
Jesse James: Looking for youth? Young James is only set to turn 21 in early June. Applying for the draft after his junior year, the Penn State product was one of the few prospects that the Steelers coveted at the position in this draft as a player who can develop into an in-line blocking tight end. He should already have an NFL-ready frame, and he certainly has more upside than his fifth-round stock might indicate.
Rob Blanchflower: A seventh-round selection a year ago, Blanchflower spent his rookie season on the practice squad, following an offseason dealing with injuries and showing a bit of promise during the preseason. The drafting of James will make it much tougher on him as he tries to stick to the 53-man roster in year two.
Michael Egnew: A former third-round draft pick, Egnew was ousted by the Dolphins last year after two seasons of failing to develop as a blocker—which is far from what he was in college. He spent 2014 out of the NFL, and will have to show that he has adjusted to the speed of the game and learned to contribute as a blocker if he hopes to stick with the Steelers.
Cameron Clear: It’s probably safe to say that the Steelers eyed Clear, who was in for a pre-draft visit, because they were intrigued by his size. Signed as an undrafted free agent, it doesn’t seem likely that this player with both on and off the field concerns has a great chance of making the team. But he will have his opportunity to prove otherwise.
Notes: It’s essential to note the role of Will Johnson in the tight end equation. In fact, I have ordinarily listed him among the tight ends, and he played more as an in-line blocking tight end than with his hand in the dirt in the backfield last year.