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Steelers hope they have enough weapons to overcome Tight End issues

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The Steelers lack a dynamic tight end, but do they have enough weapons to overcome that deficiency?

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As NFL teams continue to pass more and more, a trend that has emerged over the last handful of seasons, teams are looking for dynamic pass catching tight ends that can stretch the field as well as a wide receiver.

The Steelers thought they had one such talent last year when they signed Ladarius Green, only to see their prized signing deal with injuries that limited him to six games in 2016. Green was released this off season due to failing a physical.

Green’s departure leaves the Steelers with three tight ends on their roster with NFL experience: Jesse James, David Johnson, and Xavier Grimble. Barring an unforeseen major development, the Steelers are likely going to start the 2017 season with James as their primary tight end. James has become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh for having played his college ball at Penn State, having the nickname “Outlaw”, and giving some fans the chance to chant “Heeeeeaaaaaattttth” in 2016 for some reason. James is an adequate receiving tight end, but will not be mistaken for Rob Gronkowski anytime soon.

In his first full season James made 13 starts and caught 39 passes for 338 yards with 3 touchdowns. James doesn’t have the speed to stretch the field and create matchup problems for the defense, but he has reliable hands.

James may not be a playmaker at tight end, but, if healthy, the Steelers could be able to field enough weapons at other positions to overcome their deficiency at tight end. The Steelers wide receiver combination of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant should give the opposing secondary fits, not to mention the potential for Eli Rogers or other young players to take a step forward and emerge as a threat in 2017. Le’Veon Bell figures to have another team MVP caliber year running and receiving, a thought that should keep defensive coordinators up at night.

Would it be nice if the Steelers had a Martellus Bennett or Travis Kelce at tight end? Of Course. Do they need one in 2017 to compete? No.

If the above weapons - not to mention Ben Roethlisberger - stay healthy, the Steelers can overcome having an average player at one position. Plus, all the tight ends on the roster can contribute by being good blockers for their teammates, a skill that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Grimble has the most work to do in this area, compared to James and Johnson, and if he can stay on the field consistently the Steelers could have a potent two tight end set. Additionally, having Bryant back means teams will need to focus increased energy on the Steelers’ wideouts, which could allow James more room in the middle of the field. The extra room, when coupled with his good hands could lead to an improvement on James’ striking -13.7% DVOA.

Tight end may not be a strength of the Steelers offense heading into 2017, but it isn’t likely to be a glaring weakness either. If James can stay on the field all season, while catching about 65% of his targets and contributing in the run game, the Steelers will be happy.