Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into OTAs, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2014 to 2015—more so than usual, perhaps, with the retirement of three starters on the defensive side of the ball alone.
We’ve just wrapped up our look at the four noteworthy defensive contributors that the Steelers parted ways with from last season, and as we turn our focus to the offensive side of the ball, one thing becomes obvious: these losses don’t seem to hurt nearly as much.
The final missing piece from the offense of last season is also, admittedly, the least significant. That missing piece is tight end Michael Palmer, who contributed 30 snaps to the offense during the 2014 season, his second with the Steelers. Palmer’s most significant contribution was arguably making David Paulson expendable.
After serving for two years as the Falcons’ run-blocking tight end, Palmer was a training camp addition following a rash of injuries for the Steelers at the position, during which their top three tight ends were sidelined with injuries of varying degrees.
In truth, his primary value actually came on special teams, and that is probably where he earned his roster spot initially, as the Steelers kept four tight ends to begin the season. During games, he was used sparingly, seeing double-digit snaps only three times in two years.
The third and final time, and the only time during the 2014 season, came in Week 16, which was the game that Matt Spaeth happened to miss. Palmer played 11 snaps, primarily as a run blocker in three-tight end sets.
He was targeted only twice on non-penalty downs, catching one pass for one yard. In one game, he also dropped a pass in the end zone while being flagged for offensive pass interference, if I recall correctly, but fortunately the Steelers scored on the following play anyway.
The Steelers have invested seventh- and fifth-round draft selections on the tight end position over the past two seasons, so it doesn’t appear that Palmer will be invited back any time soon, barring an usual rash of injuries. He was a jack of all trades, master of none, and both Jesse James and Robert Blanchflower have a higher upside, which is crucial now given the aging top of the depth chart.