There are quite a few people speculating that the Pittsburgh Steelers might draft a tight end as early as the first round next month in draft, but I would suggest tempering those expectations.
Most of the reasoning behind that speculation stems from the belief that Heath Miller, who tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in the Week 16 game last season against the Cincinnati Bengals, might start the season on the reserve PUP list. While that certainly is a possibility, I would bet against it happening right now.
Miller, as of today, is three months and two days removed from his surgery. By the time the first Sunday of the 2013 season rolls around, he will be eight months and 13 days removed from his surgery. With all the advances that have been made in knee ligament reconstruction, that is quite a long time these days.
Nose tackle Casey Hampton and tackle Max Starks both suffered ACL tears in the 2012 AFC Wild-Card Game loss to Denver Broncos. They both made it back for the start of the 2012 season and that was a span of seven months, 14 days from the day that they both suffered their injuries.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL on January 1, 2012 and nine months, seven days later he was back playing again. Why so long? The running back position requires being able to change direction quickly and the Steelers likely didnt feel like rushing him back.
Yes, the fact that Miller hit the ligament trifecta could cause a delay, but Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL and freakishly made it back in eight months and 17 days.
The Steelers signed back Matt Spaeth almost two weeks ago, and it doesn\’t appear that they are ready to give up on David Paulson either. Adding another tight end early in the draft just doesn\’t make sense right now.
With all the above said, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert had the duty of creating a smokescreen when he talked to the media at the NFL combine last month.
“In my mind, an ACL injury late in the year, I still don’t believe a player is 100 percent until a (calendar) year is up,” Colbert said. “They may play before that, but whether they’re 100 percent or not, I don’t know. In my mind if you get something from a player before one year, that’s a bonus. (Heath) will be back at some point, so if we look at a tight end (in the draft) … it will depend on which tight end is available more than Heath Miller’s status, because right now we believe Heath will be back at some point.”
Keep in mind that those comments were made way before the team decided to sign Spaeth to a three-year deal and 30 more days have passed in Miller\’s rehab as well.
Now I am not going to guarantee that the Steelers won\’t draft a tight end at all next month, but with the likelihood that Miller might miss very little time, if any, to start the season, unless they are giving up on Paulson, I wouldn\’t be surprised if they didn\’t.