The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a bit of an unanticipated depth conundrum at the tight end position, one that they surely did not foresee back in March when they just inked Ladarius Green to a fat new contract and still have Matt Spaeth in the cards. It may only prove to be a short-term depth issue when and if Green returns, but it still must be addressed.
The Steelers are not the only team in the division facing such a situation—in fact, there are three, including the Bengals, with injuries to their top two tight ends. But this article is going to be about the Baltimore Ravens and the situation that they are now facing due to injuries and suspensions.
Almost literally every single one of the tight ends on their roster—that is, all but one, in a group of seven—have or are facing legitimate injury concerns or a suspension to start the 2016 season, and the only one that isn’t is second-year former undrafted free agent Daniel Brown, who caught six passes for 64 yards last year.
The intention was, apparently, for veteran free agent pickup Benjamin Watson to start, but he tore his Achilles in the Ravens’ third preseason game, and was put on injured reserve since. With the four-game and 10-game suspensions inflicted on Darren Waller and Nick Boyle, respectively, that produces a major concern when considering the other issues currently afflicting the position.
The only player that appears to be close to fully healthy is fourth-year tight end Crockett Gillmore, who was their primary tight end last year when healthy, but he had multiple shoulder injuries, one of which had to be surgically repaired after the season.
Behind Gillmore are Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams, both of whom, in a different timeline, one might think could start in their own right, but they, too, are both dealing with injuries. Pitta missed almost the entirety of the past two seasons with a major hip injury, but he is currently sidelined with a hand injury.
Williams has also been missing time due to injury, and the second-year former second-round pick is expected to play a major role in the offense this season, especially with Watson now out.
But with Pitta and Williams are ailing to start the season, then the Ravens are left with just Gillmore and Brown at tight end, with the addition of fullback Kyle Juszczyk to round out the blocking depth among the skill positions.
The Steelers are currently debating whether or not first-year former undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble merits a roster spot, and I can’t help but now wonder if the two heated rivals may find themselves competing on the waiver wire for tight end depth to start the year.
And you might recall that, though Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in both heat-to-head matchups, the Ravens finished the season 5-11, while the Steelers made the playoffs. The Ravens have the waiver claim advantage, and that could hurt the Steelers as a result.