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Future Answer at Tight End Must Be Found in 2014 NFL Draft


The Pittsburgh Steelers have numerous holes on their roster to fill during the upcoming offseason. Although some holes might garner large amounts of media attention (offensive tackle, cornerback, etc.), Pittsburgh’s brass will probably be looking for an upgrade in the form of a tight end prospect during the 2014 NFL Draft.

Despite the fact that the Steelers have a two-time “Pro Bowler” on their roster in the form of Heath Miller, this franchise will face some serious depth issues at the position over the next two seasons.

The current contracts of the soon to be 31 year old Miller and the soon to be 30 year old Matt Spaeth will both expire after the 2014 regular season. Although Miller could be re-signed to a cheaper deal ($6 million base salary scheduled for 2014), Spaeth could very well be released before he even sees the field for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh’s backup tight end has yet to participate in regular season play this fall, and will probably not make his debut until later this month due to the Lisfranc injury he suffered during training camp. More of a blocking threat than anything else, the Steelers might be better served to move on from Spaeth next fall.

Of course, Pittsburgh does not currently have much in terms of effective depth behind Spaeth and Miller at the tight end position.

Although David Johnson has fought his way back from injury, he is best used in a fullback/H-back role in Pittsburgh’s offense as opposed to a full-time, in-line blocker. In addition, Johnson will be a UFA after this season and could go elsewhere if he is offered a more lucrative contract.

In addition to Johnson, second-year tight end David Paulson has been nothing short of an immense disappointment this fall. An extremely poor run-blocker, Paulson did not inspire much faith during Miller’s absence that he could step up as the team’s number two tight end earlier this year. Until he can display better ball-security and prove to be an adequate in-line blocker though, Paulson could find himself at the very bottom of Pittsburgh’s depth chart or even cut by the time his rookie contract expires after the 2015 campaign.


Upgrading the Tight End Position

Likely to hold a top seven pick in a draft class littered with terrific left tackle prospects, I honestly have a hard time believing that the Steelers would select a tight end on the first evening of “Draft Weekend.” Day two or early on day three could be prime spots for Pittsburgh’s brass to take a tight end to compliment Miller in the present, and hopefully take over for the Pro Bowl tight end in the future.

Guys like C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa, Arthur Lynch of Georgia, and Ted Bolser of Indiana could be the types of in-line tight ends who can do damage as run-blockers but contribute a solid amount in the passing game, particularly in the red zone.

If the Steelers are looking for some more explosive play-makers at tight end, underclassmen Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer of Southern Cal could be options. In addition, Pittsburgh’s brass might keep their eyes on some explosive prospects like Colt Lyerla of Oregon and Jace Amaro of Texas Tech if they tumble down the draft board due to off-field issues (here and here).

Regardless of whom they decide to target, the Steelers must find some prospects to help upgrade the team’s depth at the tight end position next spring.






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Tags: David Johnson David Paulson Heath Miller Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Austin

    I do agree that the Steelers should look into drafting a tight end, but where do you think TE ranks on the list of immediate team needs? I’m thinking specifically of: OT, CB, DE, WR, and S

    We both agree that OT should be the target for day one, but I feel like DE and CB are more pressing needs for day two.

    For DE, Kiesel, Hood, and Woods all have expiring contracts at the end of the year. I imagine that we’ll try to bring one or two back, but that still leaves us with very little guaranteed for next year.
    For CB, Ike, Cortez, and Curtis Brown all have only one year left on their contracts at the end of the year. For a position that regularly sends three players out on the field at a time that is an issue. Especially if we want to avoid starting a rookie CB in 2014.
    For TE, only one (and at most two) plays at a time, and we have three TE on contract for next year anyways.

    I’m thinking that we should look to spend our first or second rounder on a TE in 2015 instead of this year because we have more pressing needs with our early picks for this upcoming draft.

    • Dom DiTolla

      I already wrote two articles on why OT and CB are pressing needs, and discussed at length why they should be Day 1 & Day 2 picks.

      As far as the three TEs under contract next year, none of them contribute much besides Miller. I’d rather them dump the one-dimensional Spaeth and Paulson and pick up an athletic play-maker. They not only need a compliment for Miller, but a future “go-to” target as well. Neither Spaeth nor Paulson have the potential to provide that.

      As far as DE is concerned, they might be better served to re-sign Keisel to a one-year deal and see if Woods and Arnfelt can develop if they are unable to ink Hood.

      They’ve had success before with 5-techniques later in the draft, and John Mitchell seems to be high on Woods, Arnfelt, and even Nick Williams. While another prospect should be brought into the fold, it might be wise to wait another year before trying again at the position.