Player: Rob Blanchflower
Position: Tight End
Experience: 1 Year
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $435,000
2015 Season Breakdown: Tight end Rob Blanchflower was a 2014 seventh-round draft pick of the Steelers, which has been the typical spot for the team to find their tight ends in the recent years between the drafting of Matt Spaeth in the third round in 2007 and, finally, Jesse James last year in the fifth round.
Because the Steelers have had a reliable one-two punch with Heath Miller and Spaeth for the better part of the past decade or so, they have not spent a great deal of time or resources in the intervening years on the position, but that focus has begun to change as their two stalwarts reach their mid-30s and near the end of their careers.
While he was a seventh-round draft pick, Blanchflower was seen as a player who could possibly contribute as a part of the team’s depth in the waning years with Miller and Spaeth, and perhaps ascend to the role of second tight end in time, but so far, his career has not exactly gone as planned.
Blanchflower has yet to spend a second on a 53-man roster. He failed to make the roster as a rookie after battling some injuries during the preseason and spent the year on the practice squad. He again battled injuries in 2015 and was eventually waived during training camp because of his health.
After he cleared waivers, the Steelers retained his rights on the Reserve/Injured list, where he remains listed on their roster. The full details of his injury were never properly revealed, but it was assumed to be minor and that he would likely ultimately receive an injury settlement, as happened with other players, but that never happened.
Free Agency Outlook: For whatever reason, perhaps but seemingly unlikely because his injury is still hampering him, the Steelers have not yet offered Blanchflower a contract into the 2016 even though he is an exclusive rights free agent. The team has already re-signed three of its exclusive rights free agents to contracts for the upcoming season.
That list of re-signees includes fullback Roosevelt Nix, who suffered a foot injury in the penultimate game of the regular season that prompted him to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list as well, yet they thought of him enough to give him a new contract already.
Miller and Spaeth are in the final years of their contracts at the ages of 33 and 32, respectively, but with James already in the picture, it is unclear whether or not that Steelers still view Blanchflower as a potential future contributor.
He seemed to fit the profile of what they are looking for in a tight end, listed at 6’4”, 256 pounds, and is still 25 years old with a reputation as an all-around tight end. But he was never a high-pedigreed player, rather a blue-collar type of worker. More importantly, he has an injury history extending into his college career that has prevented him from ever setting foot in an NFL stadium for a meaningful game thus far.