The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Should the Steelers fill Ladarius Green’s roster spot with a veteran tight end through some means?
As the Steelers head into the 2017 season, they are already doing so without the full offense that they envisioned last spring when they signed Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract, of which he saw about a quarter of each leading up to his release with a failed physical designation yesterday afternoon.
That kinda-sorta leaves them without an actual starting tight end, and instead with arguably a trio of number-two tight ends in Jesse James, David Johnson, and Xavier Grimble. James has in Grimble’s prior absence been the primary filler of the void, but nobody is mistaking him for Green as a receiver, not Heath Miller—or even Johnson—as a blocker.
Johnson is certainly not a starting tight end. He is simply not dynamic enough, even though he can physically catch passes. He did, in full disclosure, catch a one-handed two-point conversion last year, which amused me greatly, and which I try to use as a cover image for articles as often as possible; see above.
Grimble has been around for two seasons now and yet still has much to prove. For as often as he is said to have flashed in practice—and he has flashed a few times in games as well—he lacks the consistency to be a reliable option.
So there are two paths to choose from here: do you go with the tight-end-by-committee approach, which includes the utilization of the tackle-eligible, which is what they did frequently last season, or do you attempt to address the concern by some means?
This can be accomplished in multiple ways, or perhaps tiers. You can scour the currently-available free agent market, the best of which might be Gary Barnidge or Larry Donnel, with Rob Housler recently becoming available; you can trade for a tight end; or they could hope for the best that they can scavenge a quality tight end as a roster casualty later this summer. None of these solutions are ideal.