The Pittsburgh Steelers’ free agent signings have all been about filling gaps on their roster. Some are of their own creation, like bringing back inside linebacker Vince Williams after cutting him in March. And some were sheer luck and absurdity, like Tyson Alualu unable to sign his contract due to COVID, allowing him to rethink his decision and stay in Pittsburgh. The signings of offensive linemen B.J. Finney, Joe Haeg, and Rashaad Coward won’t bring the Steelers a Super Bowl. But it does give them some options.
About the only position the team hasn’t addressed at all this offseason is tight end. Aside from handing out futures contracts to Dax Raymond and Charles Jones, they’ve added no one. Even at outside linebacker, they re-signed Cassius Marsh and added pass rushers off the Pro Day circuit, even if that’s still woefully inadequate.
All of that is to say, is this the signal the Steelers will make a serious investment at the position come the draft? It’d be long overdue. As you probably know by now, the last time Pittsburgh drafted a tight end in the top four rounds was 2007, when they took Matt Spaeth in the third round. Since then, and more specifically since Heath Miller’s retirement after 2015, they’ve cobbled together the position with Day 3 picks, free agents, and trades. Some have worked out (Jesse James/Vance McDonald). Others haven’t (Zach Gentry/Ladarius Green).
Pittsburgh could still connect with a veteran pre or post-draft. Jesse James is the most logical name. Though I suspect he’s waiting until after the draft to see how depth charts look and determine his best opportunity. But they may also be positioning themselves to take a tight end as early as they have in a decade. Everyone knows they need another tight end on the roster, and they haven’t spent any free agency capital addressing that.
So who could be on their radar? Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth’s name is shouting the loudest. TEs coach Alfredo Roberts attended his Pro Day, put him through drills, and Freiermuth said afterwards the two have a really good connection. He’s big, can block (though still improving there) and has starter potential by 2022. Maybe he’s the guy at #55 overall.
Other options are a little less obvious. Colbert was reportedly interested in Ole Miss’ Kenny Yeboah at the Senior Bowl, but he’s an early Day 3 guy, someone the team could probably get with one of their fourth round picks. Miami (FL)’s Brevin Jordan has good tape, but didn’t test like it and is undersized. Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble would look great in a Steelers’ uniform for an offense looking to improve its run game. There might not be a better run blocking tight end in this draft than Tremble. And Boston College’s Hunter Long is a well-rounded, sure-handed guy; however, his ceiling seems low.
The Steelers are usually pretty honest about their moves. If you argue signing Josh Dobbs and Vince Williams helps take quarterback and inside linebacker off the board, both reasonable arguments to make, the fact they’ve done zilch at tight end should signal their path to address it will come two weeks from now.