It’s fair to say that there is some uncertainty when it comes to the tight end position heading into the 2020 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Only two from last season’s 53-man roster are under contract beyond March, and one of them is Zach Gentry, a rookie who was a weekly inactive except when injuries allowed him to dress.
Scheduled to be a free agent is four-year veteran Nick Vannett, whom the Steelers acquired via trade for a fifth-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks during the course of the regular season. He served as the number two tight end behind Vance McDonald, who is under contract, but could possibly be considered as a salary cap casualty.
While Vannett is slated to hit the open market, it’s not exactly as though people will be pounding down the doors for him. He has not even reached the level, at least in receiving numbers, of the likes of Jesse James and C.J. Uzomah, who earned nice contracts for themselves, or have the blocking reputations of Nick Boyle or Tyler Kroft.
The 2016 third-round draft pick caught 13 passes in 13 games with the Steelers in 2019 for 128 yards without scoring a touchdown. Over the course of his career, he has 61 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. He had 29 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns in 2018, but he had just four catches for 38 yards in the first three games of the 2019 season with Seattle before they traded him.
Vannett is a product of Ohio State who felt as though he had grown roots in Seattle, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the “didn’t expect” the trade to happen, but the Steelers offering a fifth-round pick is probably what capped the deal off. Despite the initial surprise, however, he embraced the chance.
“But after it happened, getting here and hearing they were trying to get me for a couple years now, and then actually them making the move, it made me feel good because it made me feel they wanted me here”.
It seems as though virtually everybody that the Steelers have successfully traded for, perhaps short of Josh Scobee, which came via necessity, are players whom they have had interest in and continued to pursue since the draft, and then throughout their careers. Considering this, it’s quite likely Pittsburgh looks to re-sign Vannett.
Like Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was also acquired midseason, he was given no opportunity for transition, being asked to contribute right away. McDonald was injured before Vannett was acquired, and had to play a big role right away.
“For me to come out and perform, I was proud of that under those circumstances that day”, he told reporters. “And hopefully I can continue to do that here. But that’s out of my control now”.