Pittsburgh Steelers fans, as with any fan base, spend a large amount of time lamenting over their injury woes, but the truth of the matter is that they are far from the most snake-bitten franchise in the league, at least going by last season, or in leading up to this season. Not even in the division.
We already know about the two starters that the Ravens have lost due to injuries in OTAs, but the Cincinnati Bengals are continuing to deal with injuries to their tight ends. Tyler Eifert, who played well enough in 2015 to go to the Pro Bowl, is still not practicing with the team while he continues to work his way back from a back injury.
Eifert, of course, already has a lengthy injury history four years into his career, but last year’s number two, C.J. Uzomah, has also recently been sidelined during OTAs with an injury that the team did not disclose.
This has provided an opportunity for third-year tight end Tyler Kroft to demonstrate what he is capable of doing after a knee injury in training camp last season saw him fall in the pecking order, never able to rise back up the ranks over the course of the year.
With both Eifert and Uzomah on the sidelines, Kroft has been getting plenty of quality reps in practice, and he has been looking good doing it, according to teammates. Andy Dalton told reporters that he sees a difference in the Rutgers product in his third season when it comes to his pass-catching, which is the area of his game that he really wants to show he can do.
“I think his understanding of how to run certain routes has gotten a lot better”, the quarterback said after a recent OTA session. “I think that comes with experience and time. He’s an athletic guy; he can run, so I think just the understanding of how to run certain routes and where exactly he needs to be has gotten a lot better”.
Kroft was grateful for his quarterback’s praise and agreed with the assessment, saying that “that’s what comes through when we’ve been getting a lot of serious time together the past week. It’s giving him the confidence I’ll be in the right spot and that I know what I’m doing”.
I always saw Kroft and Jesse James, who was taken in the same draft two rounds later, as very comparable players. Had James stayed for his senior season, he probably would have gone in the third round or thereabout. So I’m curious to see how their career development compares.
Of course, it will have to be graded on a curve if James is going to function as a target and Kroft is going to play second or even third fiddle with the Bengals.