Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Tight End Is a Legitimate 2014 NFL Draft Need For Steelers


66 catches for 714 yards.

Heath Miller was responsible for 83% of the receptions (58) and 88% (593) of the receiving yards that the Pittsburgh Steelers received from the tight end position last fall. Did I mention that the two-time Pro Bowl honoree missed the first two games of the regular season as well after he underwent reconstructive knee surgery during the previous offseason?

Just let those numbers sink in for a while, readers.

I understand why people are crowing about how much the Steelers need to find cornerbacks, nose tackles, wide receivers, etc. in the 2014 NFL Draft. I just hope those same people know how badly the team could use an upgrade at the tight end position in the very near future.

Consider the current contracts of the players Pittsburgh has on their four-deep depth chart at tight end.

Miller, who will turn 32 this fall, is entering the final season of his current deal. Although the veteran is still a legitimate receiving threat, he is entering his tenth season in the league and one must wonder whether or not the cap-strapped Steelers will have the financial wherewithal to extend their Pro Bowl performer beyond the 2014 campaign.

Miller’s top backup, Matt Spaeth, will also be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in the spring of 2015 as well. Pittsburgh’s block-first, block-second and block-third tight end missed most of last season with a foot injury, and his long-term future with the team will also be a huge question mark.

Behind Miller and Spaeth, the depth is not necessarily set in stone or locked up long-term either. Michael Palmer will hit the free agent market this spring, and David Paulson (UFA in 2016) has underwhelmed in spot duty during his first two seasons in the league.

Not only do the Steelers need to find a legitimate exit strategy for the post-Miller era, their offense could sorely use the versatility and explosiveness which could be brought by the addition of another tight end. No offense to Spaeth, Paulson and Palmer, but those guys are not threatening any defense or creating any matchup issues from a personnel perspective (particularly in the passing game).

Adding a joker-type tight end who could line up in the slot or even outside the numbers in 12 personnel packages would give Pittsburgh’s offense an added dimension. Receivers like Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery could be even more dangerous as underneath targets, as well as the always reliable Miller.

Moreover, running back Le’Veon Bell could feast on defensive alignments which feature nickel and dime personnel with only six or less men near the line of scrimmage. Although Bell might not be the quickest back, less-stacked boxes would allow the talented runner to get his large frame to the second level much easier and on a more consistent basis.


Final Thoughts

Make no mistake, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have plenty of holes to fill during the upcoming offseason. This is still a rebuilding team, and pressing needs exist on the offensive and defensive side of the ball at numerous positions.

While some needs in particular (nose tackle, wide receiver, cornerback, safety, etc.) have garnered most of the headlines and been the subject of many pre-draft discussions, the Steelers will have impending issues with personnel in the very near future at the tight end position unless steps are taken to solidify the depth.

So keep an eye on the tight ends in this draft class, Steeler Nation. One of them could very well be helping out on the offensive side of the ball for Pittsburgh as early as this fall.






Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.comSpotrac and Pro Football Reference


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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Heath Miller Matt Spaeth Pittsburgh Steelers Tight End

  • Stanley Turner

    Dominic who have you targeted? The tight end position this year to me isn’t real deep. Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, & Austin Seferian-Jenkins, names that stand out. After that I am not sure.

    • Dom DiTolla

      It’s top-heavy with those three you mentioned that’s for sure. What the Steelers need is a guy who can line up in the slot or even wide, stretch the field and help in the passing game.

      If they don’t take one of those guys in round one, C.J. Fiedorowicz or Iowa could be someone who comes to mind. Has a skill-set similar to Miller’s.

      I like Marcel Jensen of Fresno State or Crockett Gilmore from Colorado State as potential projects, and even the troubled yet extremely talented Colt Lyerla from Oregon could be a late-round pickup.

  • [email protected]

    The only guy I would really want of the big name TEs is Ebron. Dom, don’t disagree that we need a TE soon and personally Spaeth never really struck me as that great so wonder why they took him back…… I think too many needs on Defense this year, TE addressed next year. I’m still down with a NT early (2nd or 3rd rd) a stud CB 1st round and a S either 2nd or 3rd depending on where we take the NT.

    • Dom DiTolla

      I don’t disagree that this team needs defense. I just think that it’s foolish to pass on so many talented offensive prospects to take defensive guys early who would be relegated to the bench for half or two-thirds of their rookie deals with LeBeau still around. Remember, Jones & Williams only got to play because of a lack of personnel and injuries.

      This team is going to need to win some shootouts if they want to play .500 football next year, rookie defenders playing or not. Foolish to pass up a player who possesses a skill-set which the offense sorely lacks.

  • Carl Eagan

    The alignments suggested along with the assumed results are the same with 3-wides. Not saying a tight end isn’t needed but too many other holes to fill in the early rounds. The LeBeau argument is getting old as well only an idiot would buy into that by assuming that guys like Lake, Mitchell, Butler and Tomlin have no input.

    • Dom DiTolla

      The anti-Tomlin argument you’ve been espousing has been getting old as well.