Steelers TE Rob Blanchflower Hoping To Avoid Another Redshirt Beginning

New Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Rob Blanchflower redshirted in 2009 before becoming a four-year starter at college, twice assuming leadership roles for his team.

The Steelers currently have four veteran tight ends on the roster, the youngest entering his third season in the league. Does Blanchflower have enough to overcome the numbers and earn a roster spot as a rookie, or will he redshirt to begin his professional career as well?

Ahead of him are Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Michael Palmer, and David Paulson—perhaps in that order. Miller and Spaeth, of course, are locks, while the presence of the other two merely served to highlight the struggles that the Steelers faced at the tight end position when one or both of them were out with injuries last season.

Miller, of course, was rehabbing a torn ACL into the season, which caused him to miss the first two games. Simultaneously, Spaeth, in his first year back with the team after playing for Chicago for a couple seasons, was working through a Liscranc tear in his foot that caused him to miss three-fourths of the season.

Paulson was given the first crack at making an impact, but it’s fair to say that he largely failed. His blocking is handicapped by his lack of upper body strength, and even his receiving ability was neutralized by a key fumble in the second game of the season.

His biggest contribution on the year came late in the season on a 30-yard reception on a trick play from punter Mat McBriar. By the end of the year, Palmer had seemingly replaced him on the depth chart, but by then, Spaeth was back, and the third tight end rarely played.

Remember, when Spaeth, and then David Johnson, got injured, the Steelers were so hurting for tight ends that they regularly used linemen to serve as the second tight end last season because they didn’t trust the blocking abilities of Palmer and Paulson.

Blanchflower is a 6’4”, 256 pound tight end who tight ends coach James Daniel said “has a high level of aggression”. Asked if he plays with a bit of a nasty attitude, Daniel said “that’s usually what attracts me to them, so yes”.

Perhaps Blanchflower has the demeanor and the makeup to offer the Steelers what they lack when their top two tight ends are off the field. Bob Labriola compared him to Spaeth when speculating where he might fit in on the roster, though Spaeth has him beat in terms of size. But Daniel likes his versatility all the same:

He’s a two-phase guy, which is different than a lot of the guys you have coming at you right now. 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.

Of course he’ll have to earn his way on special teams first and foremost. But I can’t help but feel that the Steelers targeted Blanchflower as a player that offered something they felt they were missing when they were forced to rely upon Paulson and Palmer last year.

At the very least, his presence will provide much needed competition to the bottom end of the tight end depth chart, even if he winds up spending a year on the practice squad.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Kurt Williams

    I hope Branchflower shows enough to make the 53, Paulsons performance has been underwhelming to say the least. An upgrade at the backup TE pos will certainly be welcomed.

  • dgh57

    If Blanchflower shows much of anything it has to be better than Paulson!

  • tim

    Im SO glad we passed on an Ebron mainly because of his lack of blocking and got this kid late…….I was SICK of hearing predraft how ” we tried smash mouth and DIDN’T work now did it?” The Steelers will ALWAYS at LEAST TRY to be a smash mouth type football team….
    Where as re those posters now…??

  • chris ward

    Hope Blanchflower beats out Paulson in camp.


    Imho I believe we got a steal because of his injury. This guy is going to be coached on how to block in our new ZBS by Coach Munch of all people (btw, at the same time as everyone else on the line = no lag time), as well as tutored by Heath Miller every play in camp and preseason; and I can see him giving us the ability to free up an extra roster spot by being able to dump both Paulson and Palmer; as we all know Johnson or even Beachum and Adams can also play the 4th TE if called upon. So I would say Blanchflower has a good 70% shot of not only making the roster, but having been drafted to grant Tomlin an extra positional player (maybe Harrison?), by allowing us to run with a healthy trio of Miller, Spaeth, Blanchflower, (and 1stFB/4thTE/4thRB Johnson). I hope that it plays out that way for him…we can use some extra nastiness injected into the game by a young physical TE from time to time, as Ben and the line always seem to respond well to that kind of passion and aggression and desire to win not just the game, but every single battle to the end. I cannot wait to see our line in Week One against the Browns, I believe it will show a lot about our demeanor and tempo for the season…TE’s included. Go Steelers!

  • Bob

    We didn’t “pass” on Ebron. The Lions drafted him 10th overall, so he was no longer an option when we picked.

  • wdhammer

    if this can walk he should beat out the 2 stiffs..

  • tim

    I messed up on voice to text….meant glad they said would’ve passed on him anyhow…


    Ebron is a great talent on the right team…PIT wasn’t the right team…they want Miller clones, which is not intended to be derogatory, but it’s a throwback skillset to be an effective blocker and a solid pass catching TE…I think this kid has a great chance to unseat Paulson and Palmer and carry 3 TEs and maybe 5 or 6 WRs