We started this series with less than two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed four of them, those being Le’Veon Bell, Justin Hunter, Stevan Ridley, and Daniel McCullers. The only unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere has been Chris Hubbard. They resigned nine exclusive rights or restricted free agents, from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Hilton to Chris Boswell and Roosevelt Nix.
Also of note were the released of William Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden, the three most veteran players in the secondary. The team has signed three outside free agents in Jon Bostic, Morgan Burnett, and Nat Berhe. Now we examine how these moves and their pre-draft hints shape their future based on position since the offseason has begun.
Position: Tight End
Total Positional Figure: 4
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 0
Vance McDonald: Some might take exception with my starting out the list with McDonald on top over Jesse James, but I think the plan going forward is pretty clear, and that is with McDonald at the top of the depth chart. That is what we saw late in the season when he was healthy. He is a very talented tight end who is easily the best blocker of the group and a dynamic big-play threat, with obvious knocks being health and drops.
Jesse James: Old Somewhat Reliable. James is always available and will play through injuries. He has pretty good hands and has come up with some clutch plays over his three years, but he is a limited player who is probably fairly close to maxing out his abilities. He is an inconsistent blocker and hardly a YAC threat.
Xavier Grimble: Grimble has been clinging to a roster spot for two years now and I still find myself somewhat surprised that he was kept over David Johnson last season. He offers a little bit as a blocker and receiver, but is a third option at best. Will need special teams contributions.
Jake McGee: After spending all season on the practice squad, McGee and legitimately push for a roster spot this year. He showed as a blocker during the preseason after he was added to the roster late following Scott Orndoff’s injury, and he can make some catches as well.
Players Added: N/A
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook:
I think it will be really interesting to see how the Steelers approach the tight end position in the draft. They were after one during this time a year ago but the value never worked out for them, yet they then went out and got McDonald. Does that sate them for now or do they want more?
I would personally hope for the latter. McDonald is still on a year-to-year basis with James and Grimble only under contract for 2019. If they could pair McDonald with a young talent, that could be a plan for the future.