We started this series with a little over 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 2019 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 15 primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed a number of them, those being Ramon Foster, Tyson Alualu, Anthony Chickillo, Daniel McCullers, and Jordan Berry. Significant unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere were Le’Veon Bell, Jesse James, and L.J. Fort. They re-signed seven exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, and Xavier Grimble, as they await Mike Hilton’s signing.
Also of note were the release of Morgan Burnett, the trades of Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert, and three significant signings in free agency, adding starters at cornerback, inside linebacker, and potentially wide receiver in Steven Nelson, Mark Barron, and Donte Moncrief, respectively. Maurkice Pouncey also received a two-year contract extension.
Position: Tight End
Total Positional Figure: 5
Offseason Additions: 1
Offseason Deletions: 2
Vance McDonald: Was the 2018 season proof that McDonald is everything the team hoped he was? The seventh-year veteran had his best year to date, but he could play an even bigger role in the passing game this year, especially if the team throws nearly 700 passes again. No reason he can’t see 100 of them.
Xavier Grimble: If the Steelers don’t address the tight end position in a meaningful way, they better be awfully confident in Grimble’s ability to be the number two. He can do a little bit of everything. I’ve always liked him, honestly, but it’s hard to say his ceiling is very high.
Bucky Hodges: A late training camp addition, Hodges showed pretty well for himself in the preseason and hung around on the practice squad all year. He has a chance to make the jump to the 53-man roster this year.
Christian Scotland-Williamson: The international player, Scotland-Williamson is looking to make the conversion from rugby, and the Steelers appear set to give him another year to try to do it.
Kevin Rader: A local product, you might recall him as the Green Bay Packers tight end who didn’t score a touchdown against the Steelers in the preseason last year. He was signed to a futures contract at the end of the year.
Jesse James: James signed a three-year contract worth over $6 million per season with the Lions, coming off his best and most complete season. But with McDonald in front of him he reached the peak of his opportunity in Pittsburgh.
Jack McGee: After spending all year on injured reserve, McGee was not re-signed. Could he be brought back at a later point? It’s possible, but perhaps the team has simply moved on from his good preseason in August of 2017.
Notes And Draft Outlook: While I would be surprised with a first-round draft pick at the position, I do think it’s time to invest here in the draft where the value is good. When you have a starter who is as prone to injury as McDonald, you need a couple other tight ends. It sure would be nice to have George Kittle…just saying.