The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers should (and finally will) draft a tight end within the first three rounds of the draft.
Explanation: The last time that the Steelers used a draft pick within the first four rounds of any draft was when they drafted Matt Spaeth in the third round. That was in Mike Tomlin’s first season. It was 2007. While they had Heath Miller for much of that time and since used free agency and trades to bolster the position, this is an area in which the team hasn’t made a significant draft investment in quite a long time.
The question of should is easy. Of course they should. All they have at the position is Eric Ebron, who solidified himself as a receiving tight end with his blocking performance this past season, his first in Pittsburgh. Vance McDonald, who looked to be on his way out in the first place, retired.
While they could potentially hope to cobble something together out of Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader, the reality is that this is a position in which the Steelers clearly need to make an investment in order to acquire talent.
I think McDonald’s retirement will also be the alarm bell for the front office. They know they can’t really make another investment in free agency here (they just signed Ebron last year). They have to draft somebody. It’s long overdue.
The question of ‘will’ when it comes to the draft is never a sure thing, because it relies upon so many variables. While even they are not immune, the Steelers do their best, more than most organizations, not to reach for ‘needs’, so if the tight end that fits isn’t there, then they’re not going to draft a guy ‘just because’.
There’s also the fact that the team’s profile for tight ends, especially given that they don’t need a receiver from the position, lends itself to late-round options. They have found success with Jesse James (fifth round) and even David Johnson (seventh round), so it’s far from impossible. Really, they just need a guy who can block, and those guys can be found late. Or it could be Zach Banner, or Jerald Hawkins, or maybe even a rookie tackle.