The Pittsburgh Steelers addressed the tight end position via trade earlier this week when they acquired fourth-year Nick Vannett from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. That’s a bit of a steep price given that he is only under contract for 13 games, but is likely an indication that they would have intentions of getting him signed long-term beyond this year.
Reportedly, they were after Vannett for a while, and were finally willing to up their offer to a fifth-round pick following injuries to Vance McDonald, who has not been ruled out for the next game yet, and Xavier Grimble, who ended up being placed on the Reserve/Injured List to accommodate Vannett’s roster spot.
While the former third-round pick expressed initial disappointment over the fact that he was traded—“my heart sunk a bit”, he said when he was told—he is already embracing the new opportunity that he has in Pittsburgh. And during his first interview from the media pool, he expressed optimism as an outside observer about what the Steelers have in their locker room.
“I haven’t been here too long to really know, but I feel like we’ve got everything we need here”, he said, calling upon his own recent experience prepping to play their defense two weeks ago.
“I remember when we played [the Steelers] when I was with the Seahawks, Week Two and we came in here and played, I remember game-planning and going, like, ‘man, the defense is really good’”, he said. “There’s not one guy on the defense that I don’t have respect for. Offensively, I didn’t really study them too much because I’m worried about the defense, but I feel like we’ve got everything we need in here”.
It’s not ideal to be traded from a team that’s 2-1 and doesn’t have glaring issues to a team that’s 0-3 and clearly does—i.e., losing your franchise quarterback. But that’s not the outlook of this team for Vannett. “Everybody says it’s a slow start, but you know what, it’s a long season and all it takes is to get some momentum going”, he said.
Their best opportunity of the season to date to get some of that momentum is being served up on a platter for them. They are set to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night in primetime at Heinz Field. The Bengals are also 0-3 on the season. The Steelers have beaten them in eight consecutive contests. And they are 5-0 under Mike Tomlin at home on Monday Night Football.
If they can’t get this win, it will be very hard to be optimistic about them mustering any better than perhaps three or four in total on the season. Relative to their circumstances, adjusting to Mason Rudolph under center, this is a game they should win. If they don’t, then we have to reset our expectations.