The Pittsburgh Steelers already knew quite a bit about tight end Nick Vannett prior to them trading for him Tuesday night. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin admitted Wednesday that he researched Vannett ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft and that that recon included him attending the Ohio State pro day that year to get to know the tight end more. On Thursday, Vannett was asked if he knew Tomlin or anyone else from the organization prior to arriving in Pittsburgh this week.
“Yeah, so I actually met with the [Kevin] Colbert and Tomlin at the Senior Bowl when I was coming out for the draft,” Vannett said Thursday per audio on 93.7 The Fan. “And those are the two guys I remember meeting the most just because I just remember it was just like kind of a kickback conversation. And I just really enjoyed talking with those guys. And I remember when they called me, you know, welcomed me in to be a Steeler, you can tell the excitement in their voices and it made me excited.”
According to what all Vannett said on Thursday, he expects to play quite a bit Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals and that’s not overly surprising with starting tight end Vance McDonald currently dealing with a shoulder injury that has him questionable for that contest. While Vannett admitted Thursday that the last few days have been crazy for him and that he didn’t quite know what to expect after learning he had been traded to Pittsburgh, he said he’s extremely excited about now being part of the Steelers and especially due to the organization being known for using their tight ends.
“That’s why I’m so excited because I think it’s just such a great opportunity for tight ends,” Vannett said Thursday. “Like, even since the Heath Miller day when I was in high school and middle school, and just kinda watching him just thrive in this offense, and watching Vance thrive and Jesse James and all the other guys that played before me, they utilize their tight ends here and that’s something that I’m not used to where I’ve been, even in college. And I just came here to show the player that I am in all aspects of the run game, pass game, pass protection. So that’s why I see it as a great opportunity. I’m just thrilled about it and I’m excited to be here.”
When he exited Ohio State, Vannett was widely regarded by many draft analysts as more of a blocking tight end that could be used occasionally in the passing game and that’s mainly because he wasn’t used much as a receiving option in college. That’s all easily evidence by him only catching 55 passes for 585 yards and six touchdowns in the 51 total games that he played in at Ohio State. Even in the 42 NFL games that Vannett has played in so far with the Seattle Seahawks he’s only managed to catch 48 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns on 67 total targets.
On Thursday, Vannett felt the need to address what kind of tight end he considers himself now that he’s a member of the Steelers.
“Coming out of the draft, everybody always pegged me as a blocking tight end. I’ve always felt I’m much more than that,” said Vannett, according to Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m not the fastest guy, but I feel like I run pretty good routes. And I’m very quick, very precise at the top end, and I’ve got good hands.”
Vannett also revealed on Thursday that he already knew quarterback Mason Rudolph prior to the Steelers trading for him as the two worked out together a few months during the offseason. Additionally, Vannett said Thursday that he’s already fitting in well with the Steelers offensive linemen and tight ends and that many of his new teammates are offering to help him quickly learn everything he needs to know.
“I think that’s why I like it here so much because I feel like everyone’s been friendly,” Vannett said Thursday. “Just hanging out with the o-linemen and those guys are awesome. Vance and Zach [Gentry] and all the guys in the tight end room have been really helpful so far helping me try to learn and understand the offense. And everybody I talked to just kinda helped me and mentioned, like, ‘if you ever need any help, just let me know.’ And I just feel the love right away. Ever since I walked in the doors yesterday. So, I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to represent the black and yellow.”
The Steelers had reportedly been after Vannett a while, according to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Wednesday and staring Monday night against the Bengals we’ll get to see them put their long-desired tight end to use. Vannett made it clear Thursday that he’s really looking forward to donning a Steelers uniform for the first time Monday night.
“Man, I’m so excited to be here,” Vannett said Thursday. “I don’t know how many times I can say that. It’s just that black and yellow just hits different. And I’m excited to put it on and I can’t wait until I go out there Monday and represent.”