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Combine Buzz: Steelers won’t reach for a tight end but adding a pass catching threat early is intriguing

millerCOMBINE BUZZ

The Steelers enter the off-season with wide receiver, outside linebacker, running back, safety and inside linebacker as their top five needs in the draft.
Going one of those five positions with the first three selections is very likely but GM Kevin Colbert again today said at the NFL combine that all positions are in play. “At 17 {we’re} going to have a lot of options available,” Colbert told reporters on Thursday.
Colbert also spoke about the Steelers not ruling out the possibility of drafting a quarterback early.
One darkhorse position early in the draft is going to be tight end and it’s an intriguing position.
Tight end Heath Miller turns 31 in October and is not expected to be ready for start of the season after suffering a torn ACL on December 23rd. Colbert expects Miller to be back at somepoint in 2013 but not at full strength until December/January.
The only other tight end on the roster is blocking tight end David Paulson.
The Steelers will have to address tight end whether it’s in the draft or free agency with a veteran stop-gap guy, although Colbert made it sound today that tight end won’t be a position the Steelers reach for just because of Miller’s injury.
“In my mind, an ACL injury late in the year, I still don’t believe a player is 100 percent until a year is up,” Colbert said of Miller. “They may play before that, but whether they’re 100 percent or not, I don’t know. In my mind if you get something from a player before one year, that’s a bonus. (Heath) will be back at some point, so if we look at a tight end (in the draft) it will depend on which tight end is available more than Heath Miller’s status, because right now we believe Heath will be back at some point.”
Two first round tight end prospects include Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert (6-6, 250) and Stanford’s Zach Ertz (6-6, 252). At least one of them should be around at No. 17. Eifert had 50 receptions, 685 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Ertz had 69 receptions, 898 yards and 6 touchdowns. Both players have great size, speed and possess pass catching abilities of receivers, giving them ability to be major mismatches.
Having another tight end to be a mismatch all over the field with Miller for the next two to three seasons is very intriguing and one way to make up for the loss of Mike Wallace.
The Steelers, though, going tight end is more likely after round one. There are good pass catching prospects after Eifert and Ertz who will be there in the second to fourth rounds.
Travis Kelce, Cincinnati, Gavin Escobar, San Diego State, Jordan Reed, Florida, Don Sims, Michigan State and Rice’s Vance McDonald are all considered potential second to fourth round prospects. Scouts regard McDonald as a true sleeper in the middle rounds who has drawn Jason Witten comparisons. Overall, this is a good group of pass catching tight ends that would fit a particular need for the Steelers in 2013 and beyond.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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