Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a roster move adding offensive tackle Kyle Jolly to the 90-man roster. Jolly was a member of the teams practice squad in 2010 before leaving for Atlanta last season. His signing does not change our projection for the offensive line and he should fall into place as a competitor during training camp. However, that was yesterday’s article, and today we move to the tight end position.
This is an interesting position and one that is relatively set going into camp with only a couple of lingering questions floating about. While Heath Miller is the linchpin of the position, his role as a receiver may increase in the new offense under Todd Haley, who mentioned him by name in his opening press conference. Miller is an underrated player and one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL.
Behind him is where there are some interesting questions about the roster make-up. Complicating this situation is the impending four-game suspension to tight end Weslye Saunders, who made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011. Yes, Saunders had minimal impact in 2011, but showed flashes and has the potential to be a game changer with a solid combination of hands, size and speed. He will open the regular season on the suspension list and could be activated after week four (something that will buy the franchise a bit of time to make final roster decisions).
Once that situation is resolved the Steelers have two more tight ends on the roster, one who signed as an unrestricted free agent and one that was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Veteran and Haley favorite Leonard Pope was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Kansas City, but he is only on a one-year deal at league minimum and not guaranteed a roster spot (although his experience definitely gives him a leg up in the completion).
In the draft, the team selected tight end David Paulson from Oregon in the seventh round. Paulson is an interesting prospect, and somewhat of a wildcard after playing college in a spread formation. More of a receiver than blocker at this point, he has the ability to become a reliable move-the-chains type of receiver that could play dividends in this offense.
Last season, the Steelers kept three tight ends including David Johnson who we view and project as a fullback. This year, the team may decide to keep three (especially considering Pope is on a one-year deal). If no injuries occur during training camp, the opening day roster should feature Miller, Pope and Paulson (with the third tight end taking the roster spot once held by Arnaz Battle as a sixth wide receiver). From there, the team will have to decide what to do with Saunders when his suspension is lifted, something that should be interesting.
Over the next few weeks, Steelers101 will break down every position, highlight training camp battles and eventually have the complete 53-man roster as we see it today.
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