I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: Jaylen Samuels should save the Steelers a roster spot at tight end.
Jaylen Samuels would qualify as a short, squat tight end even by the standards of half a century ago, but the Steelers have had success with such players in the past, most notably David Johnson, who is 6’2”. Samuels would obviously not be used full-time as a tight end, but he could be an emergency option. Coupled with tackle-eligible work, that could help the team save a roster spot by carrying only two tight ends.
For a team that runs the vast majority of its offense out of 11 personnel, this could be something they might be willing to consider. There were even times last season when the third tight end was a healthy scratch. And we know Samuels can contribute in the passing game. He’s more likely to be a contributor on special teams than the number three tight end, whether it’s Xavier Grimble or Jake McGee.
Having your top tight end as Vance McDonald really discourages from going light at the position, however. McDonald has never shown in his career that he can stay healthy without getting nicked up and missing at least a couple of games. The idea of having just Jesse James and Samuels, plus maybe Jerald Hawkins and Roosevelt Nix, as possible tight end options is not exactly appetizing.
Samuels also still has a lot to prove. Can he contribute in the blocking game at the NFL level? While they will effectively be using him in the passing game similar to that of a receiving tight end running out of the slot, the Steelers more than most value the ability to block out of their group today. If Samuels saves them a roster spot anywhere, it would probably be at wide receiver.