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 third tight end on the 53-man roster later this year is not currently on the team.
Explanation: With Eric Ebron returning from last season, the Steelers used a second-round draft choice to bring Pat Freiermuth into the tight end position. everybody else currently on the roster has very, very little NFL experience.
Zach Gentry has been the Steelers’ third tight end for two years now, and the only games he’s dressed for have been when there were injuries, usually to the now-retired Vance McDonald. He was a fifth-round pick who was new to the position, and during the pandemic a year ago, teams skewed toward sticking with players they’re familiar with, but his redshirt seasons are over, and he can clearly be upgraded.
The fact that we would even mention names like Kevin Rader or Dax Raymond with any kind of enthusiasm just shows how bad the depth at tight end has been and for how long. The reality is that there is a perfectly fine Jesse James sitting out there who could come in, mentor fellow Penn State alum Freiermuth, and round out the tight end position into a very strong one from top to bottom. But there are other veterans available out there as well who could come cheap.
Even if one feels the Steelers should bring in another veteran tight end, this isn’t about ought, but rather likely. The Steelers ought to add to the position. They likely will not. This is the same team that had Gentry as their three for two years. Xavier Grimble was their number two in 2019.
The Kevin Raders and Zach Gentrys are exactly the kind of number three tight end that has become standard for Pittsburgh, and there should be no expectations to the contrary. But there is also the wait-and-see factor. These are both still relatively young players who can grow, and who were robbed of an offseason last year. a strong preseason showing for either one could have all of us feeling the way we did about Jake McGee.