The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 training camp in Latrobe once again should include several very good roster spot battles. One of those battles worth looking forward to as we sit here in the middle of June figures to be for the third and final tight end spot on the 53-man roster. The current combatants for that spot are Kevin Rader, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Trevor Wood and Zach Gentry, the team’s fifth-round draft pick this year out of Michigan. While Gentry will likely be considered the odds-on favorite to win the No. 3 tight end spot this summer, don’t sleep on Rader, a Youngstown State product, who spent all of last spring and summer with the Green Bay Packers.
After playing his freshman season as a defensive lineman at Youngstown State, Rader converted to tight end as a sophomore. He went on to record 41 receptions for 601 yards and 4 touchdowns during his final three seasons that included him registering a career-high 22 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. In his 2018 game against Pittsburgh, Rader caught 6 passes for 100 yards with a long reception of 36 yards. You can see all of those catches below.
Rader is probably best-known for his amazing last-second touchdown catch in the 2016 FCS playoff gamer against Eastern Washington. That catch, which you can see below, included Rader reaching around a defensive player and then catching and pinning the football to the back of that player with his right hand. The two players then fell to the ground and Rader reached his left arm around the other side of the defender to secure the ball, resulting in a game-winning touchdown and a YSU berth in the FCS national championship game.
At his 2018 Youngstown State pro day, Rader reportedly measured in at 6037, 250-pounds and ran his 40-yard-dash in 4.92-seconds. He ultimately went undrafted last year and quickly was signed by the Packers. While he played 32 offensive preseason snaps in three different games for the Packers last year, he was targeted just once and failed to register any stats. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Rader didn’t log any special teams playing time with the Packers during the preseason.
The Steelers signed Rader to a Reserve/Futures contract this past January and recently the young tight end talked about how that opportunity came about for him.
“When I came home from Green Bay, I didn’t know who was going to be contacting me,” Rader said, according to a recent story by Chuck Greenwood of the Morning Journal. “Honestly, I didn’t get many reps in the in the preseason games. I knew that was going to affect me, because they like to see film. I was home just working out, like I was before coming to the NFL, keeping my body in shape. My agent found me a number of options, but I grew up in Pittsburgh. I signed with the Steelers shortly after the 2018 season ended. I am excited to have the opportunity to be here.”
Assuming he sticks around for this year’s training camp and the preseason, Rader knows that he faces an uphill battle when it comes to him ultimately showing enough this summer at Latrobe to warrant him winning a spot on the initial 53-man roster.
“I can’t let up, even for a play,” said Rader, according to Greenwood. “I have to be ready and able to execute.”
Rader figures to get a lot more preseason playing time this year than he did last year and one has to imagine that will include him also being able to show what he can do on special teams. Sure, he’s probably a long shot to make the Steelers 53-man roster this year, but he’s a player to be aware about once training camp gets underway just the same. He’s been able to stick on the offseason roster since January and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.