Player: Xavier Grimble
Position: Tight End
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights – Re-Signed
2017 Salary Cap Hit: $630,000
2017 Season Breakdown:
I suppose you can frame the story of Xavier Grimble as that of something of a success story, given that he was a practice squad player in 2015, and was able to make the transition from practice player to 53-man roster after that.
He has been on the 53-man roster for the past two years, but that requires some qualifications, as he barely made it both times. The door to the roster was opened in 2016 because Ladarius Green started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List. Last season, he narrowly beat out David Johnson for a roster spot after they added Vance McDonald because the team was not satisfied with the quality of play they were getting from the position.
And yes, Grimble was part of that quality of play. He actually had a pretty rough preseason until he showed some life in the final game, which was after they acquired McDonald, as though it fired him up. Yet even though McDonald had injuries, that still didn’t give Grimble a lot of playing time.
Instead, the team often turned to the tackle-eligible as an extra tight end, and not because they wanted to, necessarily.
Chris Hubbard was supposed to be their tackle-eligible tight end, but he had to start so often that they started using other linemen in that role who had never played there before, including B.J. Finney, an interior player, and then Jerald Hawkins. Even Matt Feiler said that they started practicing him as the tackle-eligible in case they would have to use him.
As far as his actual production goes, he had five catches for 32 yards, though one of them was a touchdown.
Free Agency Outlook:
Grimble is yet another player who was set to become an exclusive rights free agent that the Steelers have already wrapped up, as I have previously detailed with cornerback Mike Hilton and offensive lineman B.J. Finney, both of whom are important players. Hilton is their starting nickel back, while Finney is their top interior reserve and has been effective as a spot starter.
Grimble, on the other hand, cannot boast such successes, even if he merited enough to be re-signed. He is not going to be guaranteed a roster spot, however. While the likelihood of the Steelers retaining McDonald probably means they won’t heavily address the tight end position in the draft, 2017 practice squad tight end Jake McGee is a player that coaches are excited about, as Grimble himself was in 2015 before making the jump to the 53-man roster the past two years.
Grimble, in my opinion, barely made the team a year ago, and by the end of the season he was a healthy scratch for a game or two before they made him earn his keep on special teams—in a different role, because he had previously lost his job as the right wing on the punt team, and as the left end as the backup on the field goal unit.