A “Third” Reason Why The Steelers Need To Consider Drafting A Tight End

You’re likely to see tight ends mocked to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the next several months and with good reason.

For starters, it’s obvious that there’s some concerns surrounding Ladarius Green because of his concussion history. In short, the Steelers probably can’t rely on him being on the field for every game in 2017 if they should ultimately choose to keep him.

On top of the situation with Green is the pass catching ability of Jesse James. Now, while James certainly made improvements during his second year in Pittsburgh that included him catching 66.7% of all passes thrown his way during the regular season and the playoffs, what sticks out the most is his 33.3% catch rate on third downs.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that James’ lack of production on third downs was entirely his fault because it wasn’t. I went back through all 10 of the 15 third down targets to James from last season and on 6 of them they were bad throws by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of which two were intercepted. One of those picked off passes came against the Buffalo Bills in the end zone while the other came late in the Wild Card game against the Miami Dolphins.

With the above bad throws noted, four of the other failed targets to James all hit the young tight end in his hands and thus most of them can probably be characterized as drops.

Back to Green for a moment. In the six games that he played in during the 2016 regular season, he was targeted a total of 16 times on third downs and caught 9 of those passes with all 9 resulting in either a touchdown or first down. To be fair, only one of those 7 incompletions to Green went off his hands and that came in the Week 15 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. A few of the others were broken up by defenders.

When it comes the Steelers tight end position and third down in 2016 collectively, the position group was targeted a total of 39 times of which just 18 passes were caught. That 46% completion rate just isn’t going to cut it in Pittsburgh moving forward.

If Green can’t be relied upon to play in 2017, the Steelers certainly need to strongly consider spending an early draft pick this year on a true pass catching tight end and particularly one with a college history of making catches on third downs and inside the red zone.

  • Steelers12

    Julius Thomas could become available

  • T3xassteelers

    Wonder how much it’d cost to sign him

  • rdjmsr53

    Really going to be hard for the Steelers to cut Green. They just don’t do that with free agent pick ups. My guess is they will hold on to him for at least 3 years.

  • SteelersDepot

    not hard at all if they and he are concerned about his health moving forward.

  • Steelers12

    not sure but i would look into it

  • Steve

    Steelers need to play Green until the wheels fall off. He was a 8 mil investment for 16 catch, which was very costly investment.

  • falconsaftey43

    That’s a sunk cost. Should have no bearing on anything going forward. All that mattersi is if he is healthy. He’s good when in the field. If they or he don’t think he’ll be on the field much going forward, there is no reason to hang onto him

  • SteelersDepot

    he’s only been paid $6 million so far. If he’s a risk moving forward, no need to throw more good money after bad.

  • NinjaMountie

    I just don’t think they will spend a high draft pick on TE. I don’t believe Heath Miller’s retirement was unexpected by them and they didn’t go TE high then. Instead they waited for him to go and tried to upgrade via FA. Maybe they keep LG and consider or maybe they go out and get a mid-tier FA. I don’t see them using a 1-3 on a TE, though. I’d also be willing to bet that they’re more comfortable with JJ than some of us seem to be.

  • SteelersDepot

    well, no need to go tight end last year after signing Green in March.

  • Rotten Sircus

    The only TE I’d consider drafting is OJ Howard but he’s not going to fall to the Steelers with the 30th pick. I just think we stick with what we have. I want us to go all defense with this draft !!!

  • Steve

    Dave – What happens if Green wants to keep playing? How much will it cost if he is cut?

  • NinjaMountie

    I’m saying they knew it was Heath’s last year before his last year. They knew, or had a good idea, and they drafted James in the 5th. I would suspect that it will be 4 or later before they take another TE.

  • RickM

    I don’t sense the team will draft a TE. James’ definite improvement in the second half of the year will encourage them. And if Green is willing to play as he says he is, drafting a TE is almost an admission that they were wrong to overlook his concussion history. I don’t think they are there yet after one concussion with the Steelers given his encouraging play when healthy.

    Should they be there is a different question. The answer is probably ‘yes’ given his history and all that is known about the effects of multiple concussions. But it’s a tough call either way.

  • Jim Foles

    Does this photo above show illegal contact or is this a good play?

  • Jim Foles

    If Bryant is back in the league soon… they may pass on TE.

  • RickM

    Yes, there’s no question that the possibility of having Bryant and a healthy Coates will weight into their decision-making as to whether another TE is needed.

  • Jason Vancil

    This Draft has the potential to be the best TE draft I can remember. Butt, Howard, Njoku, Engram, Hodges and Leggett are all potential top prospects.

  • dennisdoubleday

    About $3.5M dead money. If post June 1 cut, they can spread it over 3 years. There is no way he I would sign up to pay him another $5M base for 2017.

  • Jaybird

    If Bryant is back then I think we have plenty of recieving threats. I’m a little concerned about Coates though. I still want a defense heavy draft and I’d rather see a RB drafted before a TE actually. We have so much offensive talent with so many question marks- Bryant, Coates, Green, and to a lesser extent Karlos Williams who I think is a pretty talented guy. Man, the Steelers have some tough decisions ahead as far as whichever positions need drafting.

  • colingrant

    Funny you should ask, as too wondered. I think it is. The picture of course doesn’t provide us with whether the body contact or defenders left hand altered James’ ability to catch the ball, as that can only be determined by video. Regardless, It’s football. I don’t think this ball was caught however. If I recall, James secured it for a second, but it was dislodged, he landed awkwardly on it and was down for a couple of minutes.

  • J.

    Problem being the Chargers made no effort or minimal effort to keep him despite the fact at some point soon Gates is going to retire. We would have been better off chasing a free agent CB or pass rusher and drafting hunter Henry.

  • RickM

    I’m not worried about Coates. The guy got virtually no experience in 2015 and got off to a bang-up start in 2016. Asking a receiver to catch footballs with broken fingers is unfair and impossible. RB makes a lot of sense given Bell’s injury problem.

    You’re right about the tough decisions. Can they count on Bryant, Green and Golson, and will Bell stay healthy? OLB, slot corner and ILB (if Timmons walks) are the guarantees. The rest it’s tough to forecast, although I think RB will be in there somewhere as you suggest.

  • unfurious

    But both of those guys are TD getters, not third down converters. I can see a need for a good TE or another real good pass-catching RB. If any WRs are going to eliminate the need for a pass catching TE, it will be guys like D Ayers and Eli running untouchable intermediate routes and Ben throwing to sliding receivers over the middle, like he used to do with his old smurf brigade.

  • RickM

    They have excellent third-down receivers in Brown and Rogers. Personally I think they are strong on any down if we get Bryant and Coates back, as less attention can be given to AB. I just am not sure that they will see a receiving void that requires a new TE. I also don’t think they’ll give up on Green. But who knows what they are thinking.

  • unfurious

    Good point on stretching the field. That definitely is a factor, especially if you are focusing on using the smaller guys over TEs on third down. It’s really all a matter of which direction they want to go, which may be more decided by who is available and who is proven at both TE and WR.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Excellent! And whenever there is depth at one position, the Steelers will not chase one early as every other drafts these guys too early. They usually wait until later when people start giving up on picking TE’s and they will pounce if they see a good one still on the board in rounds 3-5. They probably not go early.

  • RickM

    Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head. The various depths of the field are covered with the potential WR and TE quality, but it is dependent on whether guys are available. It’s impossible to their comfort level with Bryant’s problem and Green’s concussions. We’ll only know after the draft is over.

  • GoSteelerz

    Orndoff from Pitt could be a late round guy, he was a productive downfield threat in college, averaging 15.5 yards per catch for his college career. I don’t know about his blocking, but he’s worth a look at least.

  • Thomas

    IF we can’t count on Green? We can’t count on green, he is one glancing blow to the head away from missing the whole season…

  • Gautama Om

    Why not? I believe most of or all of the signing bonus was given out the 1st year of Green’s contract.

    I would be SHOCKED if they bring Green back.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Take the kid from ALA, Howard.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I wouldn’t mind it, but I don’t think it will be needed. I think Green will play and play well and Jesse James had some of his best games down the stretch plus Grimble can be good! No with that being said I wouldn’t mind spending a pick on Butt and stashing him away til he’s healthy.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I like that! Don’t think he’ll be there at 30 tho.

  • LucasY59

    I was thinking of him as well (there are actually a lot of Pitt guys that could be good additions to the team)

  • LucasY59

    they kinda did that with Outlaw (so far Jesse has been way better than Maxx)

  • walter

    Green will continue to appear that is doing everything that he is asked to do. There is no way he voluntarily retires.

  • PaeperCup

    Good thing there’s a few that might be good value picks later…I really want to know more about adam shaheen

  • Shane Mitchell

    One might not be enough, have to get a better blocking tightend too.

  • jsteeler

    Heyward & Tuitt have been injured the last 2 years for multiple games or season ending. The Steelers need 2 DL to rotate the DL. Art Rooney said the Pass rush must be urgent for 2017. 1 OLB & 1 FA OLB. a 4.4 bump and run CB and a Safety. Shamarko should be gone and Mike Mitchell’s heir apparent should be drafted to be taught by the 30 year old. X Grimble, L Green and JJ can handle the T.E. duties running up the seam. Eli can Man the Slot with AB on the right and Bryant on the left.
    DL, OLB/DL,CB, ILB,S, TE/RB OLB.

  • will

    The photo with this article sure looks like pass interference!

  • Guest12

    So we can have 2 injury prone TE’s on the roster?

  • Guest12

    Well we were going to draft Maxx Williams in the second round in 2015 but the Ravens grabbed him right before we picked and they felt that Jesse James was a great value pick in the 5th round. Which up to this point, mainly due to injuries, JJ has been the better option over Maxx Williams

  • Guest12

    True but to the credit of the staff Green did a good job hiding some of his injury issues, again if the injuries were not an issue that would have been one of the best valued FA signings in league history

  • NinjaMountie

    That’s my stance on the matter. I don’t see a need to throw a top pick at TE as I’ve read that it’s a deep year. Now, this all depends on how things shake out. If TE is far and away the best player available and you’ve addressed needs then, sure, draft him whenever.

  • NinjaMountie

    Well, we don’t know that we would have drafted him. There were mocks of him to us and rumors but it’s impossible to know.

  • Guest12

    N’Joku is worth a first round pick as well, but we aren’t going TE in the first round, it is only a real need if Green is not going to be reliable at all and there are other more pressing needs at the moment.

  • Guest12

    If Karlos Williams can get in good playing shape (which we usually don’t have problems getting guys to be, excluding Shamarko) bringing back D Will would be the best option. Having D Will, Fitz, and Karlos Williams is solid RB depth. Bryant comes back and Coates will be healthy, we have plenty of weapons. I also feel they will put Grimble to work really hard in the offseason, that’s 3 pretty solid TEs we would have. Defense and O line depth are the most important factors this offseason. We should not have let Sean Spence go, what were they thinking

  • Guest12

    Yea but I believe saw were Colbert said that was our guy, that was our second round pick, and that probably falls in line with what you mentioned before, they knew Heath was on his way out.

  • Guest12

    Bring back Sean Spence!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Steelers12

    U got any better ideas

  • StolenUpVotes

    May not be out of the cards depending on his price tag. How well did he play this season?

  • PaeperCup

    Very well could happen that way too. OLB seems to be deep as well, and someone like OJ Howard has fallen to 30 in many drafts. I wouldn’t be surprised nor upset if it happened. But likewise if it didn’t.

  • Jeff Burton

    For the love of Pete the next time I read something about the Steelers drafting a TE I’m gonna puke. 75 catches for 840 yards and 6 TD’s. That’s the production of the position last year. That is better than Heath Miller’s production for most of his career. And I remember Heath dropping an occasional pass as well. We NEED an Edge Rusher, a QUALITY Wide Receiver, Running Back and Defensive line depth and Secondary depth AND Offensive line depth FAR more than we need a Tight End. And seeing as the Steelers ALREADY resigned Xavier Grimble, they might be thinking the same as me.

  • Guest12

    Mychal Rivera from the Raiders.

  • Steelers12

    you think he is affordable

  • Guest12

    54 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 FF. He played in 15 games but only started 6 games so that isn’t really that bad. However this is if we don’t bring Timmons back. If we let him walk then having a mixture of Vince Williams and Sean Spence next to Shay wouldn’t be too bad.

  • Guest12

    He should be, his cap hit for this past season was only 1.5 mil, I don’t see it being too much higher than that

  • Guest12

    But if the Jags don’t release Julius he won’t be available anyways. If they do I don’t see him looking for a contract that would be any less than about $5 mil per year. He is still relatively young and a good player so someone will pay him decent if he hits the market

  • Rotten Sircus

    I just watched his highlight reel on youtube. I think he’s going to be gone too but I like him in the 2nd round !!!

  • Guest12

    Yea him and Howard are the only TE’s in this draft that appear to be ready and plugged in to an offense day one so they will both be gone in the top 25 I think. It would be nice though having him but the fact that they gave Grimble a one year deal the other day leads me to think they aren’t even looking for a TE in the draft.