Steelers Have Enough Tight Ends To Keep Mike Adams From Running Routes

For the third time in Mike Tomlin’s tenure as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the organization drafted a tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft. All three times, however, it has been with a seventh-round pick.

One of those former seventh-round picks left in free agency this offseason, while the other two may find themselves competing for one roster spot that, conceivably, they could both lose out on.

The Steelers were forced to acquire additional talent at tight end last summer because their top three tight ends—Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, and David Johnson—were all dealing with some type of injury or another.

Miller, who tore his ACL late in the season last year, was not done recovering, and had to miss the first two games of the year. Johnson was still recovering from an ACL tear from August 2012, but he was ready for the season. Spaeth, meanwhile, injured his foot in training camp, which required surgery and caused him to miss 12 games.

The Steelers signed free agent tight end Michael Palmer, seemingly as a practice body, but he proved his worth, including on special teams, which helped encourage the Steelers to carry four tight ends on the roster.

Meanwhile, Miller and Spaeth are back up to full health. We got a glimpse toward the end of last season of how much their playing together could improve the offense, and they figure to be more on their game this season.

Add to that another season of maturation, and hopefully strength training, for third-year David Paulson, and promising rookie Rob Blanchflower, and suddenly the Steelers find themselves with a deep roster of tight ends, not unlike the wide receiver position.

As is the case there, the Steelers could well find themselves cutting a player at the tight end position that is worthy of playing in this league.

Or two. Last season, the impetus for carrying four tight ends was driven by the injuries to their top tight ends. I can’t recall another time in recent memory when they carried four true tight ends into the regular season, so it’s reasonable to expect that the roster will revert back to the more traditional three tight ends.

Miller and Spaeth are locks to make the roster. That means that Paulson, Palmer, and Blanchflower may all be competing for a single roster spot. Blanchflower, as a rookie, has practice squad eligibility, which plays in his favor of staying with the organization, but doesn’t necessarily help his chances of making the 53-man roster.

Meanwhile, Paulson and Palmer seemed to alternate who would serve as the third tight end as the season progressed. There seems to be a certain affinity for Paulson and his receiving abilities, but Palmer is a more all-around tight end.

It’s a fortunate dilemma for the Steelers, who will hopefully never have to ask Mike Adams to run another route. The usage of tackle eligibles as tight ends last season was more out of necessity than creativity, but they certainly have the bodies and talent to avoid that situation again this season.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • DoctorNoah

    I don’t know who is worse: Paulson or Palmer. Impressed by neither. Will see if Blanchflower has what it takes. Optimistic about him, but I have to disagree in general with the suggestion that we have an abundance of riches at TE. Remember that Heath may or may not get back to prior form and Spaeth, at best, is a fairly good blocking tight end with limited speed and versatility. He did to suddenly turn into Vernon Davis when he went to Chicago either.

  • steeltown

    I’m ready to move on from Paulson.. I just cant take a TE on roster who fails to block efficiently. Palmer isn’t a bad option as a #3 but here’s to hoping Blanchflower picks up the offense quickly and proves capable

  • dgh57

    Hopefully we can stay healthy at TE this year which could allow us to keep a extra body at LB where we have some interesting battles going on or on the OL where we can’t seem to be able to stay healthy. If Blanch could come through for us that would be nice also because Paulson needs to go.

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree with the Doc. Heath is entering his twilight and was just rated a second tier TE. If this statement has value, what does that say about our depth behind him? Paulson is blah, and Palmer is maybe a step above blah. I’m hoping Blanchflower passes them both on the depth charts rather quickly to prove his worth. 2015 is a great time to go after a top tier TE, imo, to help transition for Heath’s successor in a year or two.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Barring a complete meltdown along the OLine, the CB and TE positions are two of the higher priorities looking beyond 2015… of course if Worilds isn’t retained or he fails to impress this season then you could add OLB to the discussion as well

  • Matthew Marczi

    I thought it was pretty obvious that Miller labored throughout the season because he wasn’t fully recovered. His first couple games back as a blocker were his best, and then he wore down. He’s in far better shape now, and the same could be said about Spaeth. Spaeth is more than fine as a number two, complementary tight end. He’s a strong run blocker (who claims that his foot feels better now than it has in years), and he’s a better receiver than most give him credit for. The rest of the tight ends are par for the course when you get down the depth chart for most teams. The point is that they actually have both health and options this year. I’m not exactly saying they’re going to send a trio of tight ends to the Pro Bowl.

  • Milliken Steeler

    DING, DING DING! Thank you Matthew. Spaeth is a better receiver than people give him credit for. He is 6’7″ When in a two TE set and in the redzone, I would at least glance at the guy when i’m going through progressions to see where he is at.

  • Madi

    Don’t sleep on Blanchflower. Might be headed for the practice squad this year, but I think he will stick with the team as a #2 blocking TE long-term, and possibly even be #1 for awhile after Heath.