Do the Steelers Already Have Their TE of the Future?

MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

By G.Stryker
SteelerNation.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers may be losing both of their top tight ends to free agency this year. Nick Vannett is an unrestricted free agent, while Vance McDonald is in an option year where the Steelers can keep him at his $7.1275M cap hit, or let him go and gain $5.6725M in cap space. If the Steelers choose to let both of these players go, is their next great tight end already on the roster?

Zach Gentry was the only other TE to be carried on the game day roster. As the 3rd TE for the Steelers, he only managed 1 reception for 4 yards in the 4 games he was active. For the rest of the season, he was a game day inactive as a healthy scratch. While being a rookie, Zach was essentially “redshirted” while learning his position. At 6’8” and 265 lbs, he has the size to be a red zone threat, as well as being heavy enough to push defensive ends back in the running game. It is a little disappointing that he didn’t get many snaps (only 49 snaps this season), but hopefully he can grow into his role and become a productive tight end.

Kevin Rader is the local connection from Youngstown State who spent the year on the practice squad. At 6’4” and 250 lbs, he is known more for his run blocking than his pass catching, though he did catch a touchdown in the preseason this past year. With a year under his belt, he should be in prime position to make a run at a roster spot this season.  

Christian Scotland-Williamson is a former rugby player who has spent the past 2 seasons on the Steelers’ practice squad. As an international development player, he did not count against the practice squad roster, and they were able to carry an extra player. If there ever was an athletic guy to play tight end, CSW is it. At 6’9”, 274 lbs, he’s the tallest pass catcher on the roster. He was on the cusp last year since reports stated his blocking improved significantly. The Steelers chose to start him in their first preseason game above both Radar and Gentry. Sadly, he was hurt in the first preseason game, and unable to compete for a roster spot. The Steelers chose to leave him on the practice squad for another year. If the Steelers don’t add any new blood to the TE room, CSW is the best bet to be a pass catching tight end who can extend plays down the seam to stretch the defense inside and help the running game.

The NFL Draft is the other option to pick up another tight end. The only problem is the Steelers currently lack a first and third round draft pick. News on the draft eligible tight ends isn’t promising either (since none of them have been given a first round grade), so this class lacks playmakers. Sure a good run blocking tight end can be found, but don’t expect a down field threat out of the Steelers draft picks.

 

Who do you think will be the Steelers starting tight end next season?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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3 Comments

  1. Kelly

    February 11, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    If the Steelers let go of Vance McDonald, they’ll be in need of a TE 1; Christian Scotland-Williamson is nowhere close to being that person. In addition to the fact that he has been on the practice squad for two years, he hasn’t seen the roster in any capacity.

    The good news is that the TE draft class is weak, so they can wait and get reasonable value on a TE in 2nd to later rounds:

    Brycen Hopkins – Purdue
    Colby Parkinson – Stanford
    Cole Kmet – Notre Dame
    Harrison Bryant – FAU
    Jacob Breeland – Oregon

    These are likely the best TE prospects in this year’s draft, and none of them are projected to go in the first round. So unless Scotland-Williamson becomes absolutely proficient in the areas needed to be a TE 1 (ie: blocking and receiving), they’ll likely look to the draft or FA to find their guy.

    • G Stryker

      February 28, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Great points. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  2. Pingback: Cap Class: Should the Steelers Keep Vance McDonald? – SteelerNation.com

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