The 2017 season is over and in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up far short of their goal. While they had a regular season record of 13-3, they went 0-1 in the postseason, and that will be the legacy of this previous campaign.
The task at hand is working toward improving that postseason record and assuring that it has a zero in the loss column instead of the win column. We can take a position-by-position look at how they can work toward that goal based on their personnel.
Position: Tight End
Total Positional Figure: 3
Vance McDonald: I believe the future of the position right now rests upon the fragile frame of Vance McDonald, the sixth-year tight end the Steelers acquired via trade last August. He is a very talented player, but has major durability issues and has dropped more passes than you want to see. In spite of that, he is a very good blocker, particularly against the run, and is capable of making impressive and athletic catches with the ability to create offense with the ball in his hands after the catch. He has the makings of a long-term starter if he can put everything—including durability—together.
Jesse James: Jesse James is still a fan favorite among some, but I think more people are beginning to recognize that he has a low ceiling. The best that you are likely to get out of him is competence. But at least he is a tough kid who is willing to do anything you ask, yet still has ambitions for himself, and that is valuable.
Xavier Grimble: Originally a practice squad player in 2015, Xavier Grimble has stuck around for two years on the roster, though has been scarcely used. I believe that he only narrowly made the team in each of the past two years. They like him well enough, it seems, but he can be upgraded.
Jake McGee: Jake McGee was a 2016 undrafted free agent. He was brought in during training camp to replace an injured depth tight end that they signed earlier that year following the draft, but he played well and caught people’s attention.
Depending on how the Steelers come out of the next couple of months at the position, there is a very realistic chance that he pushes for a roster spot this year. I thought he might make it last year, replacing Grimble. Now he will try to replicate Grimble’s jump from the practice squad one year to the 53 next, perhaps at his expense.
Offseason Strategy: Upgrade Depth
As you can see from the above, the Steelers are not incredibly deep at the tight end position right now, just bringing back the four players that they had in-house a year ago. They haven’t added any as Reserve/Future signings, and they’re unlikely to add one in free agency, in my opinion.
That makes it all the more likely that they try to add one in the draft. They wanted to draft one last year, but failed to. They have been talking up the tight ends so far at the Combine, which I do not think is surprising. If they can find one that they like in the middle rounds, it’s very possible that they pull the trigger on one, because nobody on the roster right now is a sure thing, for one reason or another.