The Pittsburgh Steelers signed tight end Richard Gordon off the street several weeks ago and Sunday marked his third straight game of being inactive. While I understand that he needed time to recover from a great toe injury that he suffered during his very first practice with the team, he wasn’t on the injury report last week, yet he still did not dress.
The Steelers hands are pretty much tied as it relates to shaking up the starting 22 as the players behind them just aren’t better options right now. As bad as safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have played at times this season, it’s ludicrous to suggest that rookie Shamarko Thomas should replace either in the starting lineup. The role he plays right now in the quarters package at least is getting him on the field.
On the other hand, swapping out a few of the fringe players on offense such as tight ends David Paulson and Michael Palmer with Gordon, is something that head coach Mike Tomlin should consider, especially considering that Paulson didn’t play a snap on offense this past Sunday in lieu of Palmer.
Is Gordon the savior of all things? Is he going to keep the boat from sinking all by himself? Absolutely not, but I can guarantee you that Mike Adams is not going to be respected by any team as a legitimate pass catcher when playing tight end. While Gordon only has three more career catches than Adams does, he does have nearly 140 career offensive snaps underneath his belt and on tape at least, appears to be a capable run blocker.
Heading into this season, tight end David Johnson had all of 18 catches to his credit. In the five games that he played this season prior to suffering a season-ending wrist injury, he caught four passes for 70 yards with three of those producing first downs. He also served well as an inline blocker. According to Tomlin several weeks ago, Gordon fits the Johnson mold.
“We just decided to strengthen ourselves in the very best way possible,” said Tomlin, when asked about the decision to add Gordon to the roster. “Richard Gordon was a tight end that had similar attributes as David [Johnson] in that he’s a strong run performer.”
Until Matt Spaeth is ready to return from his injury, the Steelers could use a second tight end that first and foremost can block, and second, will somewhat be respected in the passing game. Paulson is not that player and neither is Palmer. Gordon, at the very least, deserves the opportunity to fail moving forward. If he can’t be given that opportunity starting this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, why was he even signed in the first place? If the team needed a tight end body for practice, that’s what the practice squad is for.