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 enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
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: Low
Role Vulnerability: Low/Medium
Xavier Grimble has been on the 53-man roster for three years now, and the Steelers just lost one of their top two tight ends, so in that respect, it’s hard to argue that he would be more at risk from the draft than he ordinarily would in other years.
With Jesse James gone, however, he is the only tight end on the roster with experience outside of starter Vance McDonald, and at least for now ostensibly is competing for the number two role. But it would be hard to imagine the Steelers not drafting a tight end at this point.
Then again, we have said this before and the Steelers ended up not drafting one. Many expected it to happen in 2017, particularly in the fourth round where there was a cluster of talent headlined by George Kittle, but they ended up taking Joshua Dobbs instead, who was their backup quarterback last season.
In fact, the Steelers haven’t drafted a tight end earlier than the fifth round, where they selected James, since 2007, when they drafted Matt Spaeth in the third round. They did acquire higher-pedigreed tight ends in free agency and in trade in the meantime, though, it must be noted.
Grimble is a player that the coaching staff obviously likes to some degree, and they even give him a package in the running game in which he is the lone true tight end on the field, sometimes paired with a fullback, sometimes with an extra lineman. With that said, it’s pretty common for teams to draft two tight ends at a time. The Baltimore Ravens did it last year, for example, in the third and third rounds.
The x factor in this discussion—no pun intended—is whether or not a player like Bucky Hodges can enter the picture by the end of August. He spent the 2018 season on the practice squad for the Steelers a year ago.