Putting together a team is by no means solely nor primarily about what you are able to add to the group year in and year out. More than anything, it’s about the pieces that you are able to keep together for a period of years, acquiring talent and giving them the structure to develop together into a cohesive unit.
By and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers do this better than most, and they return among the most snaps from the 2019 season as they head into this year, but they have still lost some significant players from a year ago, some of whom have been with the team for a while, like Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and others.
Now that we’ve introduced you to all of the new faces that the Steelers have added to the team since the end of last season, it’s time to take stock of who is gone since then, and what their departure—whether by the team’s will or not—will impact their success or failure in 2020 and beyond.
Player: TE Nick Vannett
Years Played: 4 (1 in Pittsburgh)
Snaps Played: 391 (1363 career)
More than a third of Nick Vannett’s career playing time came during his 13 games with the Steelers last season, originally acquired in-season via trade with the Seattle Seahawks. After Vance McDonald was banged up and Xavier Grimble suffered an injury, the Steelers sent Seattle a fifth-round pick for the fourth-year tight end, and he became their number two for the rest of the year.
It seemed to be going well enough from a personal point of view. Vannett made some glowing comments about how much he enjoyed being in Pittsburgh early on. However, in his first comments with his new team this offseason, he made it pretty clear that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. How much of that was colored by the offensive slump down the stretch, it’s hard to say, but his comments were among the most negative by a former Steeler who wasn’t crazy or who thought of himself as a genuine musician in addition to a running back and wide receiver.
On the field, Vannett’s play was thoroughly mediocre. He could function as a passable blocker, but he certainly didn’t possess the sort of abilities that you would want to give up a fifth-round pick for. As a receiver, he caught 13 passes on 17 targets for 128 yards and zero touchdowns, so not much of a factor there.
Overall, his time with the Steelers was disappointing for everyone around, including the team, and it doesn’t appear that they made any effort to re-sign him. Instead, they brought in Eric Ebron, who himself isn’t much of a blocker but has the ability to be a very good receiving tight end.
This past week, he said of his new team, the Denver Broncos, that they were unlike the Steelers and the Seahawks in that the roster felt like more of a complete team, rather than divided into offense and defense. Make of that what you will.