While the departure of Antonio Brown left a big hole in the receiving corps, it would be a false assumption to say that the void would be filled entirely by the wide receivers. In fact, for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the tight end position seems to be ripe for expansion in terms of the role that they can play in the offense.
At least, for Vance McDonald, anyway. McDonald is coming off a career year in which he caught 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns. The rest of the group really has to prove itself, including fourth-year veteran tight end Xavier Grimble, who has actually been in the NFL for five years already, including a season on the Steelers’ practice squad.
In addition to Grimble, with the departure of Jesse James in free agency, the Steelers added Zach Gentry via the draft in the fifth round. Gentry is still new to the tight end position, however, and could be serving what is effectively a redshirt season.
While Joshua Dobbs is running the second-team defense, trying to retain the backup job that he won last season, he took some time recently to weigh in on the tight ends and how they will fit in for the now AB-less offense.
“We’ve kind of seen what Vance can do when you get the ball in his hands”, Dobbs said about the team’s number one at the position when asked if he feels the Steelers have a better group of pass-catchers at tight end than people see from the outside. “He seems to be a tough guy to tackle”.
He said of Xavier Grimble that he is “pretty dynamic as well. I know X might not have gotten a lot of love last year, but we’ve seen what he can do in practice, and he always seems to step up when his number’s called in games”.
“We have some dynamic guys”, he went on. “We have some pieces at that position that we’ll be able to take advantage of various matchups, whether it’s in the short, intermediate, quick game, or whether it’s stretching the field and taking advantage of their height and speed”.
Gentry is certainly a tall one, which one might think will make him a good candidate for being a threat in the red zone, but he will have to earn his way onto the field first before that can even happen, and we have yet to see how the team is interested in using him.
What will be really interesting to see is if the Steelers manage to add another veteran tight end to the group by the time training camp starts, or even after. McDonald was such a late veteran addition a couple of years ago. They tried to claim Jordan Leggett off of waivers recently, so there is some want-to there.