Earlier in the offseason, we took a position-by-position look at where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand with their roster before the free agency process both ravaged and replenished the talent pool.
The Steelers entered the process with 22 free agents. They re-signed six of them, while losing eight more to other teams, with eight remaining unsigned. They also added seven free agents from other teams.
With the roster picture now much clearer and draft needs much easier to determine, it’s time to revisit those positional draft charts to see which positions are areas of need come draft time.
The next position we’ll revisit will be the tight end position. The Steelers have retained the four most prominently used tight ends from last season after re-signing Michael Palmer, who stands to battle David Paulson for third on the depth chart.
Still, with Heath Miller nearing the end of his career and Matt Spaeth already 30 himself, an influx of quality youth at the position is certainly desirable at this point.
Heath Miller: A Pro Bowl-caliber tight end when featured in the offense, Heath Miller is coming off one of the more frustrating seasons of his career as he worked his way back from a torn ACL that caused him to miss the first two games.
While the Steelers extended his contract through the 2016 season, there’s certainly no guarantee he plays that out. Speed has never been a feature of his game, but he noticeably had a harder time separating from defenders last year. Other than recording just one touchdown, though, his statistics remained representative. The Steelers hope he’s back closer to his 2012 form this year, however.
Matt Spaeth: The Steelers had struggled to replace Matt Spaeth until they brought Spaeth back to replace himself. After suffering a Lisfranc injury in training camp, he ended up missing the first 12 games of the year. When he returned, the Steelers seemed to have more success running the ball. When healthy, he and Miller should make a quality tandem.
David Paulson: David Paulson is entering his third season, and it’s about time that he starts showing something as a blocker. Touted as a receiving tight end, he has had only modest success in that regard, and by the end of last season, he was passed on the depth chart by Palmer.
Michael Palmer: A late camp addition, Michael Palmer earned a roster spot with his special teams play and showed that he could contribute on offense as a third tight end. While he doesn’t excel at anything, he is capable of doing just about everything at a satisfactory level.
Draft Prognosis: There appear to be some who believe that the quality of the tight end position in this draft is a mirage. Even Eric Ebron, the unanimous top tight end in the draft, has had issues holding on to the ball, which even showed during his Pro Day workout.
Still, the heir apparent to Miller should be acquired soon to ensure a smooth transition. Aside from Miller and Spaeth, the Steelers have largely neglected the position over the past decade outside of a seventh-round pick here and there. This could certainly be the year that that pattern changes.