The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Fourth-year tight end Xavier Grimble is up to the task of assuming the role of the number two at the position.
Explanation: Grimble has been with the team since 2015, spending that year on the practice squad, and has served as the number three tight end since 2016. He has had a couple of periods in which he saw some playing time, and the coaches appear to be fans of him, but he is now potentially the number two tight end with Jesse James gone.
I think to suggest otherwise would be overselling Jesse James, or at the very least who James was through most of his career. For one thing, Grimble has always been a more powerful blocker, and more trusted in-line, which is why the Steelers have for years run a running-game package in which he is the only true tight end on the field, paired either with a fullback or a tackle-eligible.
While he has some consistency issues that can be improved, that’s nothing that wasn’t true for James, of course. And as for his receiving ability, he has made some high-quality catches over the years, even if his opportunities have dwindled. Behind Vance McDonald, and in an offense driven by the wide receivers, it’s really not a huge ask for the number two tight end, anyway.
While this offense may be designed to be driven by the wide receivers, however, it’s generally predicated upon having at least two above after players at the position, and currently, the Steelers are only aware of having one. Whether or not they have two is yet to be determined.
In that regard, the number two tight end should be more important in the offense than it has been for a while. And it is now at the weakest that it has been for a while. Grimble is not exactly irreplaceable—not that James was—and the team has already tried to find another tight end through waivers.