Steelers Keeping Four Tight Ends On 53 Man Roster Can\’t Be Ruled Out

Based on the comments made Friday by both Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert about rehabbing tight end Heath Miller, it\’s hard to come away thinking he\’ll be ready for the season opener. Should they, however, ultimately decide that he will be ready following the Week 4 bye, they might just carry him on the 53 man roster in lieu of placing him on the Reserve PUP list at the start of the season. That course of action would mean they would likely carry four tight ends initially.

All signs are pointing toward David Johnson being ready for the season opener, so that would not only make him the third healthy tight end behind Matt Spaeth and David Paulson, but the backup fullback behind Will Johnson as well. By keeping four tight ends on the roster, however, it would have to come at the expense of another position.

Judging by the early looks of the Steelers offensive line depth, it is not crazy to think the team might decide to keep only eight on the 53 man roster initially with two more being signed to the practice squad. Tomlin normally likes to only dress seven linemen on game days, so he might could get away with that number count until Miller is ready to play after the bye.

In my pre training camp 53 man roster projection, I had the Steelers keeping nine offensive linemen with rookie undrafted free agent guard Nik Embernate being the 9th. Embernate of course has now been lost for the season after tearing both his ACL and MCL on Thursday, so you have to wonder if there is anyone worth keeping now to be a 9th offensive linemen, and an inactive player on game day, that you couldn\’t possibly keep on the practice squad instead. Not keeping nine would allow Miller a spot on the 53 man roster, assuming of course the numbers at the other positions stay as I predicted them.

Following the bye week, Miller will be nearly 10 months removed from his surgery. By not being on Reserve PUP at the start the season, he could begin practicing with the team at any time in order to start ramping up his rehab, just as running back Rashard Mendenhall did last year.

We are still several weeks away from the Steelers needing to make their final decision on Miller, but if you are playing around with your 53 man roster projections like I am, I\’m not sure you can rule out four tight ends and a fullback being kept to start the season.

  • Stephen Dale

    Its too bad about the Embernate injury. I think the kid would have been an upgrade to the OL and hate to see the Steelers enter the season with Whimper, Long, Beachum, etc as reserves. Hopefully Golic will develop …

  • Brendon Glad

    I just kinda hope they keep the best players. And I know this much, if any one of Dwyer, Stephens-Howling, or Redman is cut…and they have the 4 TE’s listed above…then they will not have come close to doing that for at least one spot.

    Johnson and Spaeth are suspect at best. Spaeth was one of my least favorite regular players in modern memory. Hopefully he has improved. Paulsen is unproven (though I tend to like him).

    However, you are correct. Because Heath Miller deserves whatever respect he is given. And thus, he should NEVER be given an ultimatum of “if you aren’t ready for week 1…then you have to sit until week 8, 9 whatever).

    Heath Miller is a high-class individual. They just need to have major communication with him. Because he knows as well as I do that cutting a better player to keep a lesser player as the 4th TE is not worth it if he’s 5 weeks away on final-cut day. Then he needs to go on the list…and he will probably suggest it himself…because he’s a team guy. But if he’s TWO weeks away…then it IS worth keeping the 4th TE for a couple of weeks. And risking the loss of the better player who is cut.

    And hey, I know I’m just treating the 4th TE as an automatic that better players will be cut if he stays…but i just don’t see Spaeth nor Johnson as good players. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.

  • Brendon Glad

    And I know that RB/TE is not the normal “one-or-the-other” concept. But Cowher kept one less TE to keep Parker I believe…no? I think my memory is serving me right there.
    And by the same token (and closer in position)…the reports from here are that both rookie WR’s are looking good. Possibly too risky to cut.
    So I’d say the same thing about Plaxico Burress. If Plaxico Burress is cut to keep a Spaeth or Johnson…then the only thing that will keep me from being annoyed is because it means that Heath Miller feels close enough to warrant NOT going on the “list”.
    And yeah, if Heath IS healthy for week one, and they keep 4…I will be baffled…or depressed…because it must mean a bunch of the actual best-53 got hurt.

  • Stephen Dale

    david johnson shouldn’t be one of the best 53 players after the final cut.. he has shown absolutely nothing in the past.

  • I agree! Several times this camp, I’ve heard that Jamie McCoy has done good work blocking and is making catches. How does this rate [as far as keeping him as an emergency option until Heath comes back] compared to virtually a year of zero feedback re David Johnson who wasn’t a standout player before his injury…especially since Johnson has had no work this camp to justify thinking he could plug&play for anyone if needed? In fact, Johnson might be up-to-speed only when Heath is ready to practice again, so unless the plan is to cut later Spaeth or Paulson, what would be the point of keeping him on the roster?