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Blanchflower Fighting Health, Competition For Place On Roster

As far as seventh round picks go, there was a general feeling of excitement following Rob Blanchflower’s selection in 2014. A well-rounded tight end stuck on an atrocious team and marred by injury. He was brought onto a, of course, more talented team but couldn’t leave the injuries in college. An ankle sprain kept him in a boot for part of camp and effectively squashed any chances of making the 53 man roster.

Spending a season on the ten man practice squad isn’t a bad consolation prize. The opportunity to make the mental jump from barely-Division One, get fully healthy, and take advantage of a weight room that only the NFL – or some big-time colleges masquerading as one – can provide.

The first nick to his 2015 chances came when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Jesse James in the fifth round of this year’s draft. The next nick has been a literal one and it appears that already, Blanchflower has had trouble staying healthy.

From the daily slideshow Steelers.com provides throughout OTAs, it appeared to capture one photo of a non-participating Blanchflower. Here he is in the background of this May 28th photo, donning a white hat – no helmet – a universal sign for out of the lineup.

The second-year tight end also missed yesterday’s practice, the first back after a long weekend off, according to the Beaver County Times’ Chris Bradford. Making it sting worse was Matt Spaeth missing practice too, perhaps still recovering from an elbow injury that he gritted through to end the year. A valuable opportunity for extra reps missed. There are few to go around as it is.

It’s the beginning of an all-too familiar pattern for Blanchflower. By no means is this a death sentence. He’ll have a five week window during training camp to prove his worth. But the battle will be fierce. And it doesn’t just come from James.

Michael Egnew has a pedigree even if that’s almost meaningless at this stage of his career, clinging onto a futures deal in maybe his last chance in the NFL. The other competition, and a more difficult battle, comes from UDFA Cameron Clear. A big-body at 277 pounds, the Steelers showed pre-draft interest in him – bringing him in for an official visit – before picking him up off the undrafted pile.

Though Blanchflower has always given good effort, it’s difficult to think he’ll wind up being a more effective run blocker than Clear. In that respect, the rookie already has the edge.

We can debate about skill sets and strengths/weaknesses all we want, but the old adage always wins out. You can’t make the club from the tub. That will be his first, and maybe toughest, battle to make this team again in 2015.

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