Film Room: TE Nick Vannett Brings Hands, Toughness To Steelers Roster

At the rate Kevin Colbert is making trades, there’ll be another one to talk about this time tomorrow so I’m just going to jump in with both feet and offer my thoughts on the trade for TE Nick Vannett.

Vance McDonald is out in the short-term, making for an obvious need, but even deeper than that, the depth here is poor. Xavier Grimble has done next to nothing through three games and though a decent blocker, is clearly a #3 for any team, while Zach Gentry was kept on the roster only because the team failed to claim Ricky Seals-Jones off waivers. Better depth is the driving reason for Vannett being here.

So what are the Steelers getting? Off the top, two things. A tough player with good hands.

Though I don’t find him to be a particularly strong player, he is a tough one. And there’s a difference. Ryan Switzer isn’t strong. But he is tough. Bud Dupree could be a lot stronger. But he is tough. Vannett is a similar dude from the tight end spot and yes, I realize mentioning those two current Steelers with this new one makes fans sweat a bit. But he’s someone willing to do the dirty work and make plays over the middle of the field.

Best example of that came against the Steelers in Week 2. 3rd down, he goes over the middle and absorbs a huge shot from Sean Davis while holding onto the ball. Seattle moves the chains and they score on the next play.


Or how about this play in 2018? Hard chip into the RDE, releases into his route, and is rewarded with a 32 yard play before finally being taken down. This is the type of play you’d see him make with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Alas, not the case this year.


Vannett is a technical and sure-handed player. Most importantly, he’s willing to make contested plays in traffic or knowing he will/could get hit. Check out this touchdown against the Chargers last season. Contested grab in between three defenders for the score.


And here versus the Los Angeles Rams. Diving red zone grab going across the middle. Concentration and willingness to go over the middle, knowing he might be hit.


Or adjusting to this ball thrown behind his frame. Not the world’s most difficult catch, I know, but a play no other TE on this roster besides McDonald can make.


In my four games watching him, all three from this season and against the Chargers in 2018, here is my scouting report on Vannett.

Scouting Report

The Good: Good size with great length (34 1/4 inch arms)…tough player willing to go over the middle and will sacrifice his body to make a play…sure hands and ability to catch the ball all around his frame, adjusts to the ball well…technical route runner who creates space to overcome athletic limitations…asked to pass protect and experience doing the dirty work

The Bad: Limited athlete who lacks explosion…struggles as a blocker, even on down blocks, to create a push and seal defenders off…average body strength and doesn’t play quite to his profile…limited YAC threat who goes down on contact easily and struggles to stay on his feet

One last thing. The return. Pittsburgh traded a 2020 5th rounder for him, leaving them without a 5th round pick as of now. Don’t love that idea. Know the team needed a tight end, sure they’re not giving up on the season, but realistically, this team isn’t going far in 2019. With Vannett scheduled to be a free agent (the team probably will want to re-sign him but who knows, it’ll partially be out of their control), I’m not thrilled with the prospect of trading an asset like a draft pick for a team who already didn’t have many prior to yesterday.


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