The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Is the Steelers’ current group of tight ends a legitimately deep position?
It’s a bit of an odd notion to process considering that we are dealing with a season in which the Steelers’ greatest tight end in history, Heath Miller, chose to retire, but the front office has seemingly done a good job of setting themselves up to have a nice little group of tight ends in training camp, five interesting candidates who may well be battling for as few as three roster spots.
Replacing Miller is free agent signing Ladarius Green, who will bring a different sort of presence to the offense than the team has been used to seeing from the tight end position—that is, when he actually gets on the field, hopefully for the start of training camp as he recovers from ankle surgery.
Following up behind him—and also often joining him on the sideline—is the veteran of the group, Matt Spaeth, who is entering his 10th season, eight of which he spent with the Steelers. He has been the team’s best blocking tight end since returning to the Steelers three years ago, and has been their number two option throughout that time.
Also returning from last year’s roster is second-year man Jesse James, who came on fairly well in the second half of his rookie season, making a couple of nice catches and throwing some notable blocks. Though he clearly still has some work to do, which is not surprising for a junior, he is very much tapping into the ‘upside’ we heard much about after he was drafted.
Another returning player of sorts is Xavier Grimble, who spent all of the year on the practice squad, but he has been getting lip service from coaches, teammates, and beat writers on and off since then, and that has included the recent OTA sessions, so he can’t be forgotten abot.
Rounding out the group is the return of yet another former Steelers tight end, David Johnson, who has the versatility of being able to line up in the backfield as well. On paper, this appears to be the deepest group of tight ends the Steelers are bringing with them to training camp that I can remember in recent years.