The Steelers announced on Friday that they signed a kicker and a tight end to Reserves/Futures contracts.
Daniel Hrapmann (why do the kickers always seem to have names either loaded with consonants or vowels?) was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent rookie last summer and played in the preseason but didn’t make onto the regular season active roster. The Steelers must have seen something in him during summer 2012 to lock him up this early so he can participate in the various off-season camps. Shaun Suisham hasn’t provided any reason for the Steelers to cut him. Suisham has three years left on his contract and the 1.35 million owed to him this year seems worth it considering his 90% FG completion rate. I can’t imagine he makes a big difference in the salary cap. It will be interesting to see if Hrapmann gets “kicked around” again this year.
The Steelers also signed Zach Pianalto, a tight end. At 6’ 4” and 250 lbs, he’s similar in size
to Heath Miller. He played 13 games with Tampa Bay in 2011 and his stats aren’t remarkable. Pianalto did not play during 2012. He played for the University of North Carolina and set a UNC record for most receptions by a tight end with 94. At one point he was consided one of the top five senior tight ends by Mel Kiper, Jr. but Pianalto had a broken fibula during his senior year. He was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie by Buffalo, released and then picked up by Tampa. So, his college career shows some promised but until now, he has not had much success in the NFL with 4 receptions for 40 yards in 13 games.
However, with Heath undergoing ACL/MCL repair surgery right in Dec 2012 the Steelers may be looking at potential fills for that position if Heath cannot be 100% by training camp. The Steelers haven’t made any announcement about the prognosis for Miller either. That isn’t surprising; Tomlin doesn’t seem to like to make medical statements about any player. Additionally, Heath Miller, who will earn over $5M this year if he plays, is part of the Steeler’s cap problem.
The Steelers, like many teams, like to search out the hidden gems. Pianalto, with the right system and coaching, may be one. Miller’s college roots are in the ACC just like Pianalto’s. You don’t to be in the SEC to make it in the NFL. Hopefully Pianalto could help without making the salary cap problem worse.
It will be interesting to watch these “smaller” transactions while everyone is focused on the draft. The Steelers know they have issues to fix that will not be solved there. Looks Pianalto is a good start while the motives to sign Hrapmann are less clear.
UNC Info on Zach Pianalto courtesy of: http://www.goheels.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=3350&ATCLID=205676497