It will be a while before we know for sure whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers got a steal in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft when they selected Massachusetts tight end Rob Blanchflower. In fact, due to a bilateral hernia that he plagued him in 2013, the Steelers might not truly know what his upside is.
In a recent interview following the Steelers rookie minicamp, Blanchflower talked about just how much that injury plagued him last season.
“Minicamp was an initiation by fire for me because I hadn’t practiced in almost a year with my injury senior year of college,” Blanchflower said, according to the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise. “Last year I only played on game day, and haven’t really practiced since last August. Making it through it was tough, but also proved to me the level of fitness and mental discipline to make it in the league.”
Due to his injury and the fact that he played on a Massachusetts team that lacked a lot of talent, Blanchflower only caught 27 passes for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns in six games played. Still, despite those unimpressive numbers, the Steelers were able to see enough of him to warrant spending a seventh-round selection on him.
“He has a high level of aggression. He’s a two-phase guy, which is different than a lot of the guys you have coming at you right now,” said Steelers tight end coach James Daniel following the selection of Blanchflower. “We look for guys that are either going to be run blockers or they’re going to be pass receivers. He’s adept at both of them so that is something that interests us in him. He’s playing in a multiple formation offense so that gave us a chance to look at him in a lot of things.”
While the Steelers are probably hoping that Blanchflower can eventually succeed tight end Heath Miller down the road, for now the Leominster native is just happy to have the opportunity to show the team that he warranted being drafted by them and to pick up what he can from the veteran.
“It is an incredible opportunity for me to learn under Miller, who’s a great guy and a great player,” Blanchflower said. “The Steelers use tight ends in a great way. They need those who can catch and block, and are aggressive and tough, just like Miller. If I can get anywhere near half of what he’s accomplished, that would be a great career, because he’s been in the NFL a long time and done a lot of great things.”
Blanchflower will be back on the field with Miller and the rest of Steelers teammates on Tuesday when the first set of OTA practices get underway in Pittsburgh.