When you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, there aren’t many weaknesses. One of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in Ben Roethlisberger, a loaded wide receiving corps anchored by Antonio Brown, the best all-around running back in Le’Veon Bell and an offensive line which is beyond stellar.
If someone were to nit-pick, they would point to the tight end position as the weakness of the Steelers’ offensive unit. With that said, just how good are these guys? Are they a silent weapon to exploit opposing defenses, or are they merely average at best?
With all of the aforementioned weapons on the field, including the likes of Eli Rogers, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the tight ends could feast on a defense trying to account for so many weapons on every single play. But, again, are the likes of Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and David Johnson good enough to get the job done?
For those who play close attention to the 90-man offseason roster, the above depth chart doesn’t include Scott Orndoff or Phazahn Odom, but both are considered long shots to make the roster, but could be an addition to the team’s practice squad.
So, focusing on James, Grimble and Johnson, just how likely are they to be a difference making unit in 2017? I talk about this in length in my latest podcast, take a listen HERE, but I’m not sold on this taking place.
Yes, I realize James is an up-and-coming player who has many characteristics, minus the blocking, of a young Heath Miller, but you have to remember Miller was never really a difference maker in the offense. Was he great in the red-zone, knowing how to find soft spots in zone defenses and making the tough catch over the middle? Absolutely, and that is exactly what I see when watching James as an offensive threat. He doesn’t have break-away speed, but above average hands and is building a great rapport with his quarterback.
We all know Johnson is a blocking tight end, a la Matt Spaeth, who will get a couple targets and catch a couple passes here and there, but is hardly a focal point of the offensive game plan as a pass catcher.
As for Grimble, he seems to be the wild card in the group. His size, athleticism and toughness make him a very interesting prospect. Don’t believe me? Check out our own 58Steel’s in-depth article on Grimble and how the team can use him to succeed offensively.
However, despite James’ potential, and Grimble’s upside, this unit is merely average at best. The question isn’t can they be difference makers, but can they make the plays necessary when defenses are keyed on Bell, Bryant, Brown and others? In that scenario, I think they are good enough to get the job done, even by being average.