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Steelers News: Improving the tight end production in 2020

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the tight end position and changes which will hopefully lead to more production next season.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers saw a falloff in production at the tight end position in 2019, something they specifically addressed this offseason.

Steelers determined to improve on last season’s puny tight end production

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

When Vance McDonald and Jesse James concluded a two-year collaboration at tight end in 2018, they reached a rare milestone for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With McDonald accumulating 610 receiving yards and James adding 423 more, it marked just the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that the Steelers had a tight end tandem combine for at least 1,000 receiving yards.

The first instance came 25 years earlier when Eric Green set a single-season record for a Steelers tight end with 942 yards and backup Adrian Cooper contributed 112.

It’s illustrative that even when the Steelers employed Heath Miller for 13 years or had the sure-handed duo of Bennie Cunningham and Randy Grossman in the late 1970s, they were unable to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.

After witnessing a significant drop-off in tight end production last season, the Steelers prioritized the position as one needing an upgrade, and they signed free agent Eric Ebron from the Indianapolis Colts with that goal in mind.

Ebron is two years removed from a Pro Bowl season and will be teamed with McDonald to give the Steelers a 1-2 tight-end punch that was lacking last season following James’ departure to the Detroit Lions.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The nose tackle position has drastically changed in the NFL in recent years

Adjusting the point of attack

By: Matt Williamson,

Last week, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin joined an “SNU Huddle” audio call and answered fans questions about the draft, the current roster, the upcoming schedule and more.

One caller from Louisville, Kentucky shared that one of his all-time favorites was nose tackle Casey Hampton and then asked Tomlin if there might be a player coming up through the ranks that could fill the position like Hampton did.

I listened to Tomlin’s answer: Hampton was a great player and served the team well for many years. But the game of football has changed - and so too has what is often needed from the position.

I agree with Tomlin’s assessment.

Hampton and Joel Steed were tremendous football players. Both nose tackles anchored great Steelers run defenses. Steed from 1992 until 1999 and more recently, Hampton from 2001 until 2010.

These players routinely demanded center/guard double teams in the run game. Their presence in this capacity allowed Pittsburgh’s active linebackers to flow more freely to the football and make play after play. Hampton and Steed often controlled more than one gap in the run game and clearly made those around them better. But in Hampton’s 173 games played in a Steelers jersey, he sacked the quarterback just nine times and Steed recorded nine and a half sacks over his 115 games.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers have some uncertainties with their young wide receivers

Once a strength, plenty of questions for Steelers WR group in 2020

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For myriad reasons, it seems like a lifetime ago. But it was only 17 months ago the Pittsburgh Steelers had what seemed to be the envy of the NFL in regards to wide receivers corps.

A 1-2 punch that would combine for 215 catches, 2,723 yards and 22 touchdowns that season was unmatched in the league. Toss in a promising recent second-round pick who, although he had struggled as a rookie, was a big-play machine in college. Plus, a pair of savvy, reliable slot receivers who fit perfectly within their niche in the offense.

In December 2018, the Steelers appeared on top of the WR world with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer. None of that group was past his prime; three were 24 or younger.

Brown was on his way to being a surefire Hall of Famer, and Smith-Schuster had an 111-catch, 1,426-yard season during a year in which he turned 22 on Thanksgiving.

But things for the Steelers’ receivers position room began to go downhill starting the day after Christmas 2018, when Brown got into a practice spat with Ben Roethlisberger. The infamous sequence of events that followed ultimately resulted in a trade to the Oakland Raiders.

As things sit now, midway through this unique NFL offseason, Brown is out of the league. Rogers, too. Smith-Schuster is coming off a highly disappointing and injury-riddled season. The same could be said about Switzer. Washington has just 60 catches and four touchdowns through two NFL seasons.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

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