With Vance McDonald putting a bow on his NFL career. The Steelers find themselves down a tight end. The league waits to celebrate no man, so the Steelers will have already begun prep work on finding a suitable replacement. With Eric Ebron set to reprise his position as the primary pass catching big man, the Steelers will need to find a top blocking option to pair with him.
Now, for this exercise I will be avoiding any players in the draft. The way the Steelers have used their number two tight end is typically just in a blocking type role. With Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader already on the roster, the Steelers aren't going to replace either of them with a sixth round pick, at least not right away. So let’s get started.
I’ll start this list with a very familiar name. Jesse James has done virtually nothing since since his 4-year $22 million dollar deal with the Detroit Lions. With two seasons remaining on his deal with the Lions, James would have to be released before such a deal could be made. However, with the amount of production and playing time he has gotten in Detroit. Getting cut looks like a certainty.
Time heals all wounds, and if James becomes available this would be the most likely move in my mind.
The other tight end in Tennessee. The Titans will have their hands full trying to re-sign Jonnu Smith to a contract extension. But it’s Mycole Pruitt, that will both fit schematically and financially into the Steelers’ system. Pruitt is a devastating blocker, and works extraordinarily well in the second tight end role.
Although not a receiving threat, Pruitt has had to grind his way just to earn an NFL job. His work ethic would be welcomed into the locker room.
If the Steelers want to take a flyer on a cheep blocking option, Auclair might be a good bet. Missing most of the Buccaneers regular season with a calf injury, Auclair has gotten lost in the fold of the Bucs’ vast depth chart. Auclair might be the biggest dice roll of anybody on this list, and the only player that will get a significant raise in playing time.
I wanted to end this list with two bigger names that are less realistic, but will come cheaper than ever. At one point Eifert was considered one of the top tight end prospects in the NFL. Injuries have plagued his career, however Eifert is a fighter to remain in this league. Still just 30 years old, Eifert played in 31 games over the past two seasons, and has had the best stretch of health in his career. I’m not against a one year flyer for the former Cincinnati Bengal.
Zach Ertz has played his final game as a Philadelphia Eagle. He will either be traded or cut in the coming months, and I would have to imagine the Steelers would at least put in a phone call. Ertz’s [traded] cap hit is a smaller than the savings from McDonald’s retirement, so he’s not unaffordable. Sure he’s on the last legs of his career, however the right team could pull another solid season from the veteran tight end. Keep in mind the entire situation in Philly was a disaster, coupled with some injury issues to Ertz himself and it’s no surprise his numbers suffered. Ertz will be better in 2021.
That’s the list. What do you think? Who do you anticipate the Steelers bring in as their blocking tight end? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.