Tight ends in threes. The Steelers have carried three tight ends, no more or no less, on their roster seemingly forever.
As the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, the Steelers have 3 tight ends under contract for coming season. Yet, this draft is said to be deep at tight end. Does that mean the Steelers can ignore the position?
Steelers Depth Cart at: The Starter
How do you know where the Steelers stand at Tight End? How about this: Moouth!
Pat Freiermuth immediately established himself as a starter, a reliable “Go To” target in the over the middle and a leader on the field. Thus far he’s caught 123 passes on 177 targets for a 69.5% catch rate, while hauling in 9 touchdowns. If his catch percentage dropped, his yards per reception (or target) and his first down catches increased.
You can’t quite say “Pat Freiermuth is unquestionability the Steelers long-term answer at tight end” however, because he has had 3 concussions in two years. Freiermuth insists he’s not worried about it, but the Steelers would be foolish not to be concerned.
Steelers Tight End Depth Chart: The Backups
The Steelers drafted Zach Gentry as a project with their fifth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Injuries and his learning curve kept him from doing much in 2019 and 2020, but in 2021 Gentry emerged with a respectable season, showing signs that he could be a legitimate number 2 NFL tight end.
He really didn’t do much to build on that in 2022 but the Steelers still resigned him, although that second contract comes with a bit “but” (see below.)
The Steelers added Connor Heyward to the mix with their 6th round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Mike Tomlin’s love for NFL blood lines doesn’t always work out (see Devin Bush, and to a lesser extent Terrell Edmunds), but Connor Heyward’s rookie year vindicates Tomlin’s family fetish.
Heyward only touched the ball 14 times, but he made those count, delivering big plays that helped break open the games against the Buccaneers, Falcons and Browns and helping seal the win over the Raiders.
The Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Tight End
The 2023 NFL Draft is said to be deep in tight ends. But the Steelers really don’t have the luxury of drafting a tight end early.
But be clear about one thing, everything about Zach Gentry’s contract, from its one year length, its meager $152,000 signing bonus and the fact that it’s a hair over the veteran minimum salary, says “You can be cut at St. Vincents without a second thought.”
However, the Steelers don’t have a 5th or a 6th round pick, which is where you’d typically find a backup tight end.
But just because Pittsburgh’s draft capital might not allow them to draft a tight end, doesn’t change the fact that going in to the 2023 NFL Draft the Steelers need at tight end must be considered as Moderate.