Devil’s Advocate: Grumblings Over Grimble

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: How likely is second-year tight end Xavier Grimble to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster in 2017?

The Steelers have undergone something of a transition at the tight end position following the retirements of Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, the latter sort of being forced upon him when he failed a physical heading into last season.

They were already bracing for this turn when they elected to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster in 2015 as well as a fullback. Even though all but one face in the tight end room was different, they carried four of them and a fullback last year as well.

It would seem to me that in order for Grimble to make the roster again, he will have to make the Steelers do that again, as I see him squarely behind Ladarius Green, who is the starter when healthy, Jesse James, who is the quintessential number two, and David Johnson, who is the best blocker and is move-capable, with the ability to line up in the backfield.

There is nothing that Grimble does better than everybody else. He makes more athletic catches than James or Johnson, but not Green. He blocks better than Green and more powerfully than James, but does neither in comparison to Johnson.

But he is developing. The Steelers have been watching him progress for almost two years now, come September. And he has had some tangible on-field success. And Green’s situation isn’t even entirely clear right now, so they may desire the extra tight end body.

But can they afford it? The roster got deeper this year, and they might not be able to afford the roster spot. He’s not much of a contributor on special teams so he could struggle to even dress. He also has practice squad availability, but even if he gets claimed, they could just move on to Scott Orndoff. If everybody on the roster does something he does better than he does it, then how valuable is he?

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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