The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2022 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then. The changes apply to almost every position on the roster. Some are major changes and some minor, though some have remained largely static.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp. This year, it’s back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. 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
Pat Freiermuth: Coming off of a promising rookie season, Pat Freiermuth is focused this offseason on rounding out his game. The two areas he has talked most about trying to improve upon are his ability to create yards after the catch and his functioning as an in-line blocker. You certainly can’t call him satisfied.
Zach Gentry: Gentry has gone from being a headscratcher as a draft pick to a minor fan favorite. Standing at 6’8” and checking in at around 260 pounds, he began to establish himself last season as the Steelers’ primary blocking tight end, and he is looking to expand both that role and his opportunities as a receiver in year four.
Kevin Rader: The practice squad veteran has his best opportunity yet to finally crack the 53-man roster on a full-time basis, with his primary competition being Jace Sternberger—and the Steelers figuring out how to carry both Derek Watt and Connor Heyward without one of them occupying the third tight end roster spot.
Jace Sternberger: A former third-round draft pick, Sternberger spent a chunk of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad. We haven’t seen him, since he’s only appeared in in-season practices, but coaches have spoken positively about him, and he should be viewed as a legitimate roster candidate.
Connor Heyward: The younger Heyward will have his hands full trying to carve out a role for himself on this team. He knows that starts first and foremost on special teams, but he’s looking for a home on offense, and without one clear position, he’ll have to rely upon his versatility to state his case.
Players Lost: N/A
Notes and Camp Outlook:
While the top two positions on the depth chart are secure, both Freiermuth and Gentry are young and developing players whose growth will be important in this offseason, especially as we shift to a new(ish) system with new quarterbacks throwing the ball, and possibly a greater emphasis on the run game.
Then there’s the competition for the number three tight end roster spot. Will that go to Heyward, even though he is not a true tight end? Or will Rader finally get his day? He does have a track record on special teams. Sternberger’s pedigree is not to be dismissed, either, and he can contribute on special teams as well, if necessary.