Steelers should take a look at Portland State TE in later round of Draft

The Steelers don’t have a first-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft. Here’s why they could target a tight end late in the draft.

The Steelers traded their 2020 first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins early last season, and many would say they won the trade. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick quickly established himself as a dominant player on the defense, and he is still on the rookie contract the Dolphins signed him to when they drafted him.

The only problem now is that Pittsburgh must wait until the 49th overall pick to make their first selection after a season where they could use some help in their aerial attack.

Many top prospects are sure to be off the board by the time Pittsburgh is on the clock, so they may do well to look beyond your big-name college football programs to find a pass-catcher.

The Steelers seem committed to keeping Vance McDonald, according to Dale Lolley of DK Pittsburgh Sports. Here’s what he had to say on the matter:

[The Steelers have] had internal discussions about how best to create the cap space they’ll need to keep outside linebacker Bud Dupree, even if that means using the franchise tag. But one thing that is low on that list is declining to pick up the option in 2020 for tight end Vance McDonald.

According to sources, the Steelers’ intention, barring something unforeseen, is to pick up the $5.5-million option the team holds on McDonald’s contract. That would give him a cap hit of $7.127 million this season, but the Steelers have looked at the other options that might be available and decided keeping McDonald might be their best bet.

McDonald’s struggles last year were well documented. Although he could be poised for a return to form as the Steelers hope to regain their consistency at quarterback, a team can never have too many guys who can block and gain short yardage – especially when the depth behind McDonald is led by Nick Vannett (13/17 for 128 yards after joining the Steelers) and Zach Gentry (one reception for four yards in 2019).

The Steelers may be out of luck on the big names that have been turning heads for months now, but the NFL Combine brought a small-school name to the forefront.

Portland State’s Charlie Taumoepeau is 6’3 and 245 pounds. His 4.75 40 yard-dash time isn’t a “wow” number, but it’s not bad at all for a bigger guy who’s not going to be called upon to go deep very often. His vertical leap of 36.5 inches isn’t bad, either.

Taumoepeau pulled in 36 receptions for 474 yards and two touchdowns in 2019, good for an average of 13.2 yards per reception. In 2018, he impressed with 580 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns on a whopping 20.7 yards per reception.

NFL.com grades Taumoepeau at 5.54, or “Chance to Make End Of Roster or Practice Squad,” so the second round is probably a bit high to take someone who will likely be available in later rounds. But attitude is possibly the most important thing for a bubble guy like Taumoepau, and Lance Zierlein was impressed:

Went into the tape study looking for athleticism and catch production but came away impressed with his attitude and consistency of effort as a run blocker.

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Taumoepeau seems to have the desire to prove he belongs on an NFL roster, and the Steelers would do well to give him that chance on Saturday of draft week if he’s still around.

 

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