It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first deep breaths of the 2019 NFL season.
Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and trades to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.
And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.
Position: Tight End
Up for Grabs: Backup Roles
In the Mix: Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry, Christian Scotland-Williamson, The Field
Following the departure of Jesse James in free agency, there is an opening at the tight end position, not only in the position group itself, but also at the number two slot. While it appears likely that fourth-year Xavier Grimble will slide into that role, training camp will have to be the determinant of that.
The Steelers have already attempted to claim one veteran tight end off of waivers who could have given Grimble competition for that role. The last time they exited training camp unsatisfied with the talent level there, they made a trade for Vance McDonald, it’s worth noting.
But it’s not just the number two role that is potentially up for grabs. The makeup of the depth chart still has yet to be determined, including whether or not it will include three or four players. That may well hinge upon how comfortable they are with rookie Zach Gentry, first, either to perform, or second, to make it to the practice squad.
If he’s somewhere in the middle, he could end up being carried on the 53-man roster as the number four tight end while essentially being given a redshirt year. The team has some recent history with carrying more than three tight ends, even to open a season, so it’s not an outlandish proposal by any means.
Christian Scotland-Williamson is the only other tight end who’s been on the roster before, and he’s only been playing football for a little over a year. There is also Kevin Rader, a futures signing, and Trevor Wood, a rookie undrafted free agent who also plays long snapper.
Quite frankly, it’s significantly more likely that a player not currently on the roster makes the team than either of them do. That’s no offense intended to them, but it is the reality of the odds. Maybe even Jake McGee gets a call, assuming that he’s healthy after tearing his Achilles last May.