Drafting a Tight End Early Would Be a Mistake For the Pittsburgh Steelers
With the offensive players portion of the NFL Combine over with, rumors have begun to swirl about what the Pittsburgh Steelers will do with their early round draft picks. One theory is that the Steelers could potentially target a high ranked tight end to ultimately replace 11-year veteran Heath Miller, who is no longer a young man at 32 years old.
If the Steelers do decide to grab Minnesota’s Maxx Williams or Florida State’s Nick O’Leary in the first or second round they will be making a big mistake.
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While Miller is getting older, he isn’t getting worse. Last year Miller caught 66 passes for 761 yards, both of those numbers rank third among his career bests. He is also a very important part of the Steelers running game thanks to his great blocking ability.
Yes, 32 in the NFL is getting close to ancient for any player who isn’t a quarterback but that doesn’t mean the Steelers should worry about replacing Heath just yet. Miller has been very durable over his 11-year career, missing only seven games since 2005 when the Steelers drafted him 30th overall.
The Steelers depth at tight end would be a concern if Heath were ever to go down. Matt Spaeth is a free agent, Michael Palmer only made one catch last season, and Rob Blanchflower doesn’t seem to be the answer considering 99% of people have forgotten about him.
So yes, the Steelers may need to get another tight end.
However by wasting a first, second, or even third round pick on a tight end, who likely won’t play the majority of the offensive snaps in the near future, the Steelers would only be hurting themselves. There are positions much more important to the Steelers success.
Drafting a cornerback is an absolute must. As are finding a legitimate outside pass rusher and finding a good backup for Le’Veon Bell.
ESPN’s Scott Brown recently wrote an article about Penn State tight end Jesse James and the Steelers potential interest in him. James is a large individual at 6’7″ and 262 pounds and will likely be a mid to late round draft pick. James caught 38 passes for 398 yards last season.
By possibly selecting a player like James, who is a Steelers fan by the way, the Steelers can have a young tight end on the roster who can learn from Miller for the time being and hopefully improve his skills until he is needed to play a large role in the offense.
If the Steelers chose to go the route of picking Williams, O’Leary, or even Miami’s Clive Walford early in the draft they may solve the future at the tight end position but they likely won’t get great production out of any of those guys until Heath actually retires. Plus a talented backup tight end does not help the Steelers defensive issues.
What do you think Steelers Nation? Should the Steelers target a tight end early in the draft or wait until the later rounds or even next year?