The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team in the AFC North that has not recently used a high draft pick to address the tight end position, though they did acquire via trade Vance McDonald, who was a second-round pick when he came out.
The Baltimore Ravens drafted Maxx Williams a few years ago, and though his career has been somewhat limited by a knee injury, he has generally failed to live up to expectations as a second-round pick. The Cleveland Browns got a solid rookie season out of first-round pick David Njoku so far, however.
Then there is the Cincinnati Bengals, who made Tyler Eifert their first-round draft pick in 2013, the same year that the Steelers drafted perhaps their only true first-round ‘bust’ of the Mike Tomlin era (depending upon whom you ask, of course), that being outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Eifert has gone to the Pro Bowl and, when healthy, is a Pro Bowl talent. But healthy has been elusive for the veteran, who has missed most of the past two seasons with ankle and back injuries since he played 13 games in 2015, the year he went to the Pro Bowl.
It can be argued even in hindsight that the Steelers would have been better off with the talented-but-damaged tight end over the perpetually underperforming pass rusher. And they can have that tight end if they want, apparently.
Eifert is entering his sixth season and will be an unrestricted free agent. More importantly, he has recently been cleared to participate in offseason workouts, just a couple of weeks ahead of the start of the new league year in mid-March. Teams were notified of this last week by a doctor—I assume the one that performed his most recent back surgery, his third.
It will be very interesting to see what Eifert’s market is, considering that he has actually only played in 39 of 80 possible regular season games over the course of his five-year career. Since playing in 15 games during his rookie season, he has seen action in just 24 of 64 games.
This is just spit-balling here, and I’m not actually advocating for the Steelers to go after him, but if he can be had on the cheap, then it should be pointed out that he could theoretically aid the team in an area that has been targeted for improvement by the ownership, which is red-zone production.
Over the course of his career, according to Pro Football Reference, Eifert has been targeted in the red zone 32 times, recording 20 receptions for 166 yards, 17 touchdowns, and one interception for a quarterback rating of 102.2.