Jake McWho? Why, it’s Jake McGee, the rookie free agent tight end who helped power the Pittsburgh Steelers offense to a game-sealing touchdown in the second half of their victory last night during the preseason opener against the Giants. Or did you miss it?
McGee, who has only been in training camp for a short while after the Steelers waived fellow rookie free agent tight end Scott Orndoff with an injury at the beginning of August, was able to garner some playing time last night, and got the opportunity to be featured in a blocking role a few times, of which he took full advantage. I will say that he has gotten my attention.
At 6’5” and 252 pounds, McGee fits the tight end prototype, and his scouting report suggests that he should even have some good hands. He tested reasonably well in terms of athletics. But where he will earn his stripes if he has any future on the Steelers is as a blocker.
Frankly, the majority of the success that the team had running the ball late in the game was directly attributable to the Steelers giving McGee the opportunity to function in a lead role. The rookie tight end looked very effective running the team’s staple counter trap to the left, which they have used with particular effectiveness over the past few years.
Heath Miller was excellent in functioning as that lead pulling option on the sweep, typically to the left. Jesse James doesn’t even look as comfortable and fluid as does McGee running it. Frankly, I thought he was very impressive.
Not because of the results, but because of how he looked doing it. He looked comfortable, natural. He knew where he had to go and the angle at which he had to get there. His motions were fluid and quick. His initial lunge into the lead block was a powerful thrust.
Even in the few snaps that I revisited in which he was given an opportunity to run, he shows that he does have some legitimate athleticism. He is a bit quicker than he might look, and he gives the impression that he has something to work with in terms of the nuances of running routes and finding zone spots.
The bottom line is that McGee is decisively on my radar now as somebody that I look forward to seeing more of over the rest of the preseason. Dare I say that he could even potentially compete for a spot on the 53-man roster?
While I would like to see him get a few opportunities to catch the ball over the course of the next three games, what I really want to see is what he can contribute on special teams. A guy like Michael Palmer stuck on the team for two years as a fourth tight end because he could play there.