2021 Pre-Training Camp Roster Review: Tight End

The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor, though some have remained largely static.

We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp, this time back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.

Position: Tight End

Total Positional Figure: 5

Additions: 1

Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

Eric Ebron: Entering his eighth season, and second in Pittsburgh, Ebron figures to continue to be a weapon in the passing game after bettering a 50-500-5 stat line a year ago. The addition of rookie Pat Freiermuth should help ease some of his responsibilities.

Zach Gentry: Now in his third year, the former fifth-round pick may be in a do-or-die season. As a former quarterback, he was given some leeway in learning the position, but will have to begin earning his keep after spending most of his first two seasons as a healthy scratch. There have been some positive reports about his progress this spring, however.

Kevin Rader: The former Youngstown State product made his debut last year after Gentry was injured. He ultimately played in one game, registering three tackles on 12 special teams snaps. He will compete with Gentry for the number three tight end role.

Dax Raymond: Raymond spent some time in training camp, and was brought back on a futures deal after the season ended. The former undrafted free agent originally signed with the Chicago Bears in 2019, and was on the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad a bit in 2020.

Players Added:

Pat Freiermuth: A second-round selection out of Penn State, Freiermuth figures to be a factor right away as a blocker and as a complementary receiver with Ebron, perhaps with a package set for him in the red zone, where he has been impactful in college.

Players Lost: 

Charles Jones: The man who once caught a pass for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019, Jones spent some time on the practice squad in Pittsburgh last year. The Steelers waived him after the draft when they signed cornerback DeMarkus Acy.

Notes and Camp Outlook: 

It’s abundantly obvious who the top two players are at this position. As for Ebron, he is who he is and he’s not changing. For Freiermuth, this is the time to learn and to grow. But there is the question of who the third tight end will be.

As mentioned, Gentry has reportedly looked good so far during the spring, which is encouraging, but the pads aren’t on yet. Rader’s ability to play on special teams is a significant feather in his cap, and we can’t eliminate Raymond as a sleeper candidate, either.

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