With 11 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 predictions in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our forecasts for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that Mason Rudolph won’t just win the No. 2 quarterback job, but will play competitive snaps for the Steelers, I turn my attention toward the team’s backup tight end.
Prediction: Xavier Grimble will have at least 350 yards receiving in 2019.
Why it will happen: Given the current state of the depth chart at tight end two weeks away from the start of training camp, there should be little doubt that Xavier Grimble will secure the No.2 role at the position this year. Barring a signing from outside the organization, it is highly unlikely that one of the other names on the roster such as rookie Zach Gentry or International Pathway Program prospect Christian Scotland-Williamson will show enough to challenge him for the job.
Since entering the league in 2014, the most productive season Grimble has ever recorded came in 2016 when he finished the year with 11 receptions for 118 yards. But set to see a significantly increased role in 2019, a projection of at least 350 yards receiving seems like a credible target for the 26-year-old.
When Jesse James was manning the position, this was a number he eclipsed in two of the previous three years, finishing with 423 yards in 2018, 372 yards in 2017 and 338 yards in 2016. Hitting this target will likely require Grimble to record around 35 receptions, a figure very much in line with number of catches James made as the No.2.
Given the Steelers love of using two tight end formations, Grimble should also see his fair share of snaps. And if Vance McDonald struggles to stay healthy once again, the former USC product could find himself logging a significant amount of playing time.
With 104 receptions belonging to Antonio Brown and 30 receptions belonging to James to theoretically distribute throughout the offense now both targets are playing elsewhere, Grimble could figure to be one of more notable beneficiaries this year.
Why it won’t happen: With the arrival of Donte Moncrief via free agency and Diontae Johnson via the draft, Pittsburgh has brought in two receiving options who should figure to see a lot of the targets previously earmarked for Brown. Second-year wide receiver Jamas Washington will feature more offensively, as should the slot combination of Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer.
Simply put, Ben Roethlisberger has perhaps more viable receiving options than he has had for some time and Grimble is likely to be way down the pecking order in 2019. And with the coaching staff reportedly hoping for an expanded role from McDonald this year, the No.2 tight end may not feature quite as much as he has done in the past. Suggesting Grimble can replicate the production of James merely because he has assumed the backup role might also be considered a disservice to the player who signed a lucrative free agent deal this offseason.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will tight end Xavier Grimble have at least 350 yards receiving in 2019?
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