Since we seem to be on something of a theme today about whether or not certain players should be considered a safe bet to make the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster—having already talked about Jerald Hawkins and Jordan Dangerfield—I figured we might as well keep going, so here’s another: Xavier Grimble.
It’s actually not just Jake McGee that is putting pressure on the second-year tight end when it comes to retaining his roster spot. He isn’t doing himself any favors. While he has supposedly improved as a blocker going up against the practice sled, it hasn’t fully transitioned to the football field yet.
But what the Steelers are supposedly really enamored with when it comes to Grimble is supposed to be his athletic abilities as a receiver. We heard for a year before he even made the team that he makes highlight-reel worthy catches in practice even though he tends to drop others.
Those catches haven’t been there this year, and worse, in-game he is still showing an inability to hold on to catches that he should. His lone target on Sunday, which was negated anyway by a defensive holding penalty, would have resulted in a nice play if he were able to secure the football after reeling it in. Instead, he allowed the trailing defender to scrape it out of his grasp.
I like Xavier Grimble and I was a proponent of his making the 53-man roster last season. I also argued that he should stay on the 53-man roster even after Ladarius Green came off the Physically Unable to Perform List. So I’m not saying this as somebody who has always been against him or anything.
But I don’t think it was an accident that the Steelers and special teams coordinator Danny Smith played McGee on I believe every special teams snap in the second half. They wanted to feed him work on special teams, to make sure he could do it, to justify keeping him on the roster.
This is the way of things. That is what they did a few years back with another tight end, Michael Palmer, who managed to stick on the roster for two years. I’ve mentioned him a few times at this point in connection with McGee, but there are others. During outside linebacker Adrian Robinson’s rookie preseason, they fed him work on special teams to justify keeping him on the team as a fifth at the position.
I don’t know that McGee making the team would necessarily mean Grimble not making the team. Dave Bryan doesn’t seem to think so based on his latest 53-man roster prediction. I do have a hard time imagining them keeping four tight ends again this year with more valuable depth elsewhere.
But perhaps once I brainstorm for my own next 53-man roster prediction it will hit me and I’ll find the path to keeping both of them. Otherwise, yes, Grimble’s roster spot should be considered unsecure. McGee still has to keep going out and proving himself—and catching a couple of passes—but he has gotten off to an impressive start.