In the final installment of the Point/Counterpoint series, we diagnose the Pittsburgh Steelers possibly selecting a tight end with their first overall draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft at the No. 22 position.
Point - Mike Frazer
Time waits for no man, and right now it's pulling away from the Steelers' top two tight ends.
Heath Miller, a 10-year veteran, has been as solid of a player as will ever be found. A consummate professional, he has treated every block, catch and touchdown as if it's simply the minimum expectation. No celebration, no look-at-me antics. Just production.
His number-two, Matt Spaeth, is on his second go-around with the Steelers. Like Miller, though, Spaeth is advancing in years. Statistically, he had one of his lowest-production years in 2014, but given the number of targets quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to work with, it's hardly surprising the number-two tight end had difficulty finding the ball thrown his way. He was, however, as dependable as ever as a blocker, and regularly helped pave the way for running back Le'Veon Bell.
But, Miller turns 33 in October, with Spaeth turning 32 a month later. Both have had significant injuries the last two seasons. And the only other tight end on the roster not on a futures contract is Rob Blanchflower, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
The only truly effective way to address this dearth of young talent over the long run is through the draft, and the best option -- by a country mile -- is going to be gone by the end of the first round.
Minnesota's Maxx Williams, at 6'3" and 249 pounds, is exactly the type of tight end the Steelers covet. Eric Green, Mark Breuner, Miller, Maxx Williams. Great blockers who can catch well, too. And, at only 20 years old, he still probably has some growing to do. In a class of "pretty good" tight ends, Williams looks comparatively like a god among men.
There are other options available, of course. Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman and Miami's Clive Walford are both good blockers and receivers. They are similar in size to Williams, and they just look like Steelers.
But Williams is just that special. He is this draft's Heath Miller or Jason Witten, and he may be special enough for Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert to hand over a card with his name on it when the 22nd pick of the 2015 draft comes around.
Counterpoint - Jeff Hartman
The Steelers need a tight end, there is no doubt about that, but spending a first round pick on one is a bit over the top, in my opinion. Heath Miller is still productive, and the Steelers don't utilize the tight end as much as other teams like the New England Patriots.
As much as I would love to see the Steelers select a more athletic, pass catching tight end to help maximize the matchups against linebackers, the team ignoring major holes in the roster and selecting a tight end who will mainly watch in 2015 is ludicrous.
Back to the scheme for a second, Todd Haley's offense utilizes the tight end for run blocking and the escape route for Ben Roethlisberger when things break down. Look at Miller's stats from 2014 and a good chunk of those will be those scramble plays where Roethlisberger always knows to find Miller in the flat or down the seam for a nice gain on any given play. It doesn't take away from what the tight end does within the offense, but rather emphasizes the fact the team doesn't need to spend a first round draft pick to find someone who can do just that.
This draft class is deep at many positions, and tight end is one of them. There are capable tight ends available in every round, and the Steelers taking a Maxx Williams-type player seems to be a little far fetched for my liking. The Steelers would be wise to stick to their guns and focus on the BPA between OLB, CB and Safety - in no particular order - and pick up a tight end in the mid-to-late rounds of the upcoming draft.