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 will draft a tight end earlier than the fifth round for the first time since 2007.
Explanation: It’s been a long time since the Steelers have used a high or mid-round pick on the position. They had Heath Miller for some time, followed by free agency and trade acquisitions in Ladarius Green, Vance McDonald, and Eric Ebron. With the lack of depth this year, it may finally be time to make that investment.
If the Steelers were going to add a veteran tight end to round out depth following McDonald’s departure, then they would have already signed Jesse James by now. He was released, so he would be a street free agent with no compensatory value.
That suggests that they intend to address the position through the draft instead. While that might not come in the first round (e.g. Pat Freiermuth), it’s reasonable to believe that it will be on the board at any spot after that, especially if Freiermuth is available at 55, which is not impossible.
This is also a pretty good draft class for third and fourth-round tight ends in that range. Like last year, they have three combined picks in those two rounds, which feels like a good spot for that to come this year.
Given the needs at running back, offensive line, outside linebacker, and cornerback, as well as the team’s fondness for the tackle-eligible, it’s hard to see them prioritizing tight end very much at the moment. They still have Eric Ebron at the top, and it’s not that hard to find a blocking tight end — and you certainly don’t need to use a high draft pick to get one.
Pittsburgh might not have signed a veteran tight end yet, but they could be waiting to see how the draft unfolds before doing so. They will be weighing what’s available on the board versus what will be available among veteran free agents as well, so don’t be surprised if a Jesse James were to be signed on Monday.