PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Steelers used this off-season to bulk up at tight end, where they’ve spent the last five years looking to find the correct piece to replace Heath Miller following his 2015 retirement.
Following the two recent additions, there are now five tight ends on the 80-man roster:
- Kevin Rader, 1st Season
- Dax Raymond, 1st Season
- Zach Gentry, 2nd Season
- Eric Ebron, 7th Season
- Vance McDonald, 8th Season
Projected ‘Starters on Sundays’: Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald
Ebron joins Pittsburgh through free agency following his first six seasons in the league (Detroit – four, Indianapolis – two). He had a career-high in three categories in 2018: 66 receptions, 750 yards and 13 touchdowns.
McDonald has provided the quarterback position with a reliable option over the last three seasons, hauling in a career-best 50 receptions and 610 yards in 2018.
The duo of Ebron and McDonald brings depth to the tight end position and could be a solid, one-two punch for coach Mike Tomlin both inside and outside the red zone in 2020.
Reserves: Dax Raymond
Raymond, cut by the Chicago Bears practice squad in 2019, comes to Pittsburgh as the second addition at tight end this off-season. Raymond’s 6’5” 255-lb. build brings depth into the blocking aspect of tight end. It’s likely Raymond will find a spot on the 53-man roster to supplement the strength area of tight end.
Battling for a Spot: Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader
In all but one of Tomlin’s seasons as head coach, he’s kept just three tight ends. Therefore, it could leave Gentry and Rader off the roster.
Gentry saw playing time in only four games in 2019 after being drafted 141st overall by the Steelers. With the experience ahead of him, it’ll be tough to crack the 53-man roster.
As for Rader, another first-year man, he has yet to see playing time on an NFL field since signing with the Green Bay Packers in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. Rader is a 6’4” 250-lb. tight end from Youngstown State.
Due to his lack of experience in the league, it’s likely he’ll miss the cut for the 53-man roster in September.
The tight end position is without doubt one to watch for the Steelers in 2020. Two strong additions and one veteran returner in McDonald, Ben Roethlisberger will have a few dynamic options to target on offense this fall.
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