Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: TE Kevin Rader
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: For the second time in as many seasons, tight end Kevin Rader has ascended to a spot on the 53-man roster by virtue of injury at the position, in this case to Eric Ebron.
While the Steelers have yet to do anything with Eric Ebron, the report is that he suffered a knee injury on Sunday that will require surgery, and he should be expected to be placed on the Reserve/Injured List relatively soon. Pittsburgh has already promoted his replacement to the 53-man roster, however, in Kevin Rader, who was also promoted at the end of last season when Zach Gentry was hurt.
The Steelers did elevate Rader for a game earlier this season when Ebron missed two games due to injury. He played a whopping one snap in that game, and it came on offense…and he was targeted on it, a completion for one yard. It was his first NFL catch.
Rader is more of a blocking tight end, but according to our own Alex Kozora, he did make strides in fielding the ball during training camp this offseason. The Steelers now have three blocking-capable tight ends on the roster. One could make a case that Rader might actually be the best blocker of the three, but that’s not necessarily saying all that much.
What remains to be seen is whether or not he plays any meaningful number of snaps. He is a special teams-capable player, even though he did not play on special teams when he was elevated earlier in the season. But going forward, it would help him get a helmet.
Are they going to start pounding out three-tight-end sets? I’m not exactly going to bet my savings on that. But they were juggling all three tight ends when Ebron was in the mix, so theoretically there are snaps to be picked up that could be Rader’s.
And, well, he’s on the roster now, so that’s automatically stock up.