The Pittsburgh Steelers inked two players to contracts yesterday, the far less interesting of the two being tight end Michael Palmer. Palmer was the blocking complement to Tony Gonzalez with the Atlanta Falcons before being released last offseason, ultimately finding his way to Pittsburgh late in the offseason.
With both Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth out to start the year, Palmer and the trio of lesser tight ends, also including David Johnson and David Paulson, saw significant playing time during the first two games of the season.
Significant, at least, for tight ends who would be third, fourth, and fifth on a depth chart. In fact, it was Paulson who ‘started’ the first two games of the year, playing 106 snaps total. When Johnson went down early in the victory over the New York Jets, he was forced to log uncharacteristic snaps again to the tune of 35.
Outside of those three games, he played just 48 snaps, or one fewer than Palmer logged the entire season.
But by season’s end, it was Palmer who surpassed Paulson on the depth chart, which nearly coincided with the return of Spaeth. From Week 12 on, Paulson played just four snaps, with none coming between Week 13 and Week 16.
On the other hand, Palmer managed 18 snaps in that time frame, which is more significant than one might think, given that the return of Spaeth drastically cut into what playing time he could have gotten.
While both tight ends are members of certain special teams units, Palmer is certainly the superior performer, which is in large part why he made the roster in the first place.
He made two tackles on kickoff returns in a preseason game that may have saved touchdowns. During the season, he made two tackles while missing none. Paulson missed one tackle and failed to record any.
Palmer received so little playing time during the regular season as a receiving target that it’s difficult to compare the two. He was targeted just once, catching the pass for an eight-yard gain. In the preseason, however, he caught four of six targets with no drops for 52 yards.
Paulson, meanwhile, caught five of nine targets with one drop for 72 yards, but he also had a crucial fumble in Week Two after a 34-yard gain. During the preseason, he caught eight of 11 targets, with two of the incompletions going as drops, for 90 yards and a touchdown.
While Dave Bryan wrote yesterday that the Palmer signing is not likely to have an impact on the Steelers’ draft strategy, it should provide for an interesting camp battle should the two enter training camp gunning for the final tight end spot.
Both tight ends were kept on the roster last season, but that was partially due to the injuries to Miller and Spaeth, as well as Palmer’s special teams play. There’s certainly no guarantee that they carry four tight ends again. Regardless of whether or not they draft another tight end, however, the re-signing of Palmer could result in Paulson being on the outside looking in.