2017 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Continue Carrying Four Tight Ends?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will the Steelers continue the trend of carrying four tight ends and a fullback in the past two seasons?

As I was working on my review of the Steelers’ moves at the tight end position over the course of the offseason to post yesterday, I got to thinking about the future of the position, and specifically how it will be shaped by the demands of putting together a 53-man roster.

It has not been altogether uncommon over the course of Mike Tomlin’s tenure for the Steelers to carry four tight ends and tight-end-like bodies, with one of them always capable of lining up in the backfield. But over the course of the past two seasons, since the revelation of fullback Roosevelt Nix, they have continued to carry four players that they have used as tight ends.

While they do have a player in David Johnson who is capable of lining up in the backfield, there really is no question at this point that they view him as a tight end barring an emergency, and he played fairly extensively a year ago. It is also pretty clear that they value him after signing him to a two-year contract, so his position seems secure.

It’s pretty obvious that Jesse James isn’t going anywhere either, and barring a major health issue, neither is Ladarius Green. There is also no reason to believe that Nix is suddenly going to miss the roster after two years of bulldozing blocks and standout special teams play.

That is already four bodies in this category, and we still have the question of Xavier Grimble. And that is ignoring the fact that the Steelers have shown significant interest in this tight end class, even if it has cooled down a bit.

One has to wonder if we could see three consecutive seasons in which they carry five players on this section of the roster. Given the uncertainty around Green, the need for development from James, and the fact that Nix is pretty much a lock at this point, it’s a pretty realistic possibility.

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