The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2018 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Tight End
Total Positional Figure: 7
Vance McDonald: The Steelers made a trade last preseason for Vance McDonald because they were not happy with what they had at the tight end position at the time, believing that he could potentially be that key starting piece that they had not had since Heath Miller retired.
And he can be. We already know this. He just has to stay healthy and hang on to the footballs. We’ve already seen his potential. He’s a very good blocker and has produced some splash plays. In the only game that he was used full-time as a weapon and starter, he had over 100 yards.
Jesse James: Until McDonald actually proves that he can be a consistent presence, and I mean presence both literally and figuratively, the fact of the matter is that James isn’t going anywhere. He’s been the team’s primary tight end based on snaps played (by a good margin) for the past two years. He doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but is a competent all-around player who is not necessarily at his ceiling just yet, entering year four as a former underclassman.
Xavier Grimble: An early injury in OTAs may have already guaranteed Grimble another year on the roster, or at least has done so for practical purposes, but it sure would be nice to see him earn it. He has shown flashes here and there, but is inconsistent.
Jake McGee [Injured Reserve]: McGee was the injury in question. Entering his third offseason, he looked like somebody who would seriously push for a roster spot, but he won’t be doing that this year. Maybe in 2019.
Ryan Malleck: The Steelers signed Malleck after McGee’s injury. He spent some time on the offseason roster already a year ago. Should be the favorite for the practice squad spot, but he has gotten some positive note.
Christian Scotland-Williamson: A rugby player on the roster as an international designation, Scotland-Williamson is literally learning the game of football right now. He is said to look like a rugby player playing football. But the team can afford to be patient with him if they want to because there is no penalty for carrying him.
Pharaoh McKever: A college free agent, McKever is a tall target who did a little bit of this and a little bit of that in college. A really good camp could push him onto the practice squad.
Players Lost: N/A
Notes and Camp Outlook:
Without McGee, I don’t think there is going to be a lot of competition. The main thing to look for is just going to be growth from within. Especially as it pertains to McDonald, his chemistry with the rest of the offense—and his ball security—will be the attention-getters, but let’s not ignore tracking the progress of James and Grimble as well. On a personal note, I’m very curious to see how Scotland-Williamson fares with pads on.