Could Greg Olsen be a stopgap tight end for the Steelers?

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 29: Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after his game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 29: Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after his game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /
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The Steelers have some major question marks surrounding the tight end position heading into 2020. Could Greg Olsen be the player they need in a Super Bowl window?

There is little question that an end of an era is nearing in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger will be 38 years old in March and their Super Bowl window is quickly closing. The Steelers have limited funds to work with this offseason and are currently ranked 30th in the NFL in cap space – projected to have just over $1.4 million to space.

Questions continue to swirl around players like Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave and whether or not they will be sporting a Steelers uniform in 2020. However, one of their biggest areas of concern comes at tight end.

Nick Vannett is an unrestricted free agent this offseason who the Steelers may allow to hit the market, and Zach Gentry could hardly get on the field in 2019. Vance McDonald is due $14.2 million over the next two seasons, and Pittsburgh could get out of his contract with limited dead money.

Because of this, the Steelers could very well be in the market for a tight end. Could veteran Greg Olsen be a viable option?

Admittedly, Olsen isn’t the dominant force in the passing game that he once was. The long-time NFL starter is entering his 14th NFL season and will be 35 years old in March. Still, his services may be worth taking a look at in a Super Bowl window for the Steelers.

Olsen has missed time in each of his past three seasons and clearly hasn’t been the player we used to know. However, the Panthers tight end was a three-time Pro Bowl player not that long ago (2014-2016).

Olsen was a rare breed of player entering the NFL. At 6’6” and 254 pounds, he ran a 4.51s 40-yard dash to go with impressive agility and explosiveness. His most comparable NFL player, according to Mockdraftable, is Travis Kelce.

While Olsen is clearly a few ticks slower these days. He’s a savvy veteran who has made a living finding soft spots in the passing game. But despite his age, this wouldn’t be the first time an old tight end has made an impact with his team.

In 2014 at the age of 34, Antonio Gates earned 821 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Chargers and proved to be a threat in the passing game. Tony Gonzalez was even better. Though he was possibly the best to play the game, Gonzalez made the Pro Bowl four straight seasons to end his career from age 34 to 37. In his final season at age 37, he still managed 859 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.

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Greg Olson isn’t going to be one of the best tight ends in the league at this point in his career. However, the veteran is projected to earn just $5.2 million per year on the open market. He could be a cheaper and perhaps better alternative to Vance McDonald in 2020 if the Steelers decide to go that route.