Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: TE Kevin Rader
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: With third-year tight end Zach Gentry garnering positive reports about his development this offseason, it will be difficult for Rader, who spent most of last season on the practice squad, to make the leap to a full-time rostered player.
With the tight end position in transition and no clear number three in years, there has been some genuine interest in how things would play out this summer behind Eric Ebron and rookie Pat Freiermuth, between third-year draft pick Zach Gentry and first-year Kevin Rader.
Gentry was a fifth-round pick out of Michigan, a player the Steelers knew would need time to develop, and he more or less got two years of development time. He spent most of the past two years as a healthy scratch, dressing only when there were injuries.
Eventually, he was injured himself. Rader, a former college free agent who was on the practice squad, was called up. He only played in one game, logging about a dozen snaps on special teams, but registered three tackles along the way.
Rader’s ability to perform on special teams is a major feather in his cap. But multiple beat writers have had positive things to say about Gentry’s development, not just over the course of OTAs and minicamp, but also from what we did not see last year, during training camp and practices.
All things being equal, I think we can assume that the Steelers would like to keep Gentry and have him develop as a legitimate contributor. His 6’8” frame certainly plays in his favor, though he lacks special teams ability.
This evaluation, then, is about Rader’s prospects of making the roster and how positive developments in the Gentry camp make that more difficult. It has nothing to do with anything Rader may or may not have done this offseason, to make that abundantly clear.
In fact, I haven’t heard anything about him since last year. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working hard, even making genuine strides. Ultimately, the preseason will decide who the third tight end is, and he is certainly in the running. Either way, the ‘loser’ will still probably end up on the practice squad.