There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: TE Xavier Grimble
Roster Vulnerability: Medium-High
Role Vulnerability: Medium-High
Maybe I’m overestimating here, but I think the Steelers were really close to drafting a tight end last year, and I think that means there’s a good chance that they draft one this year. It’s been two years now and they still haven’t exactly replaced Heath Miller, who locked down the tight end position for about a decade.
While they recently acquired the services of Vance McDonald and are excited about what he might be able to bring to the team, the reality is that he is a veteran entering his sixth season who has never before been a full-time established starter, and he has a lengthy injury history that continued in Pittsburgh last year.
As for Jesse James, well, I think his ceiling to maximize his usage is as a number two, but it wouldn’t be the most terrible thing if he ends up in a number three role either. And if they do draft a player, particularly during the first two days of the draft, that could happen.
This would be even worse for Xavier Grimble, the third-year tight end, because it would mean bumping him off the roster entirely. The reality is that he has been on the very fringes of the roster for his entire career.
A former undrafted free agent, Grimble bounced around to a couple of teams’ practice squads before latching onto Pittsburgh’s in 2015. He made the roster in 2016 in part due to injury with Ladarius Green, and then he narrowly beat out veteran David Johnson last year.
The Steelers brought in McDonald via a late trade because they were not happy with what they were getting from the tight end group already, and Grimble was a part of that. He did not do much last season to encourage belief that he will be a bigger player next season.
There was even a time last season when Grimble was a healthy scratch in spite of the fact that the Steelers only had three tight ends on the roster. if you’re the third tight end and the team makes you a healthy scratch, that is a bad sign.