Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into 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 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: With the Steelers choosing not to re-sign Eric Ebron, and the appearance that they don’t intend to address the position in the draft, Kevin Rader is the presumptive favorite to take over the number three tight end role in 2022.
Kevin Rader has been with the Steelers since 2019, and has spent parts of the time since then on the 53-man roster. He dressed for six games last season after Eric Ebron suffered a season-ending injury, catching two passes for eight yards amongst his 36 offensive snaps.
He also played 37 snaps on special teams during that time. He dressed for one game the year before that and served on special teams, logging 12 snaps and registering three tackles. He also recorded three tackles last season, so he brings value on special teams as well.
With the Steelers showing no indications that they will bring back Ebron, Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry are the only tight ends from last year’s opening day roster currently scheduled to be back for next season.
Still, even assuming that Pittsburgh doesn’t address the position in the draft, or subsequently in free agency, Rader’s roster spot won’t go uncontested. They do have Jace Sternberger on the roster, who has 18 games of playing experience in his history as a former third-round pick. He spent much of last season on the practice squad and was retained on a Reserve/Future contract.
Rader, though, is the guy they know. This is his fourth year spending time as a part of the organization, and there’s a reason that they kept re-signing him, even if he hasn’t outright made the 53-man roster yet. They think he can play. The 2022 season may finally be the year he makes that jump from practice squad to active roster.