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NFL Draft

Steelers Draft Picks in the 21st Century: Tight End

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This year the NFL Draft will take place April 23-25 in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.

On Sunday we looked at every running back selected by the Steelers since the turn of the century.

Today, we’re moving onto an offensive position that has completely changed since the early 2000s, the tight end.

The Steelers were lucky enough to have a franchise rock at the position — Heath Miller — for much of Kevin Colbert’s tenure with the team and have use their draft capital sparingly on the position in the past 20 years.

2000-2004: The Steelers starting tight end had been Mark Breuner since drafting him in 1995. Primarily used as a blocker, Bruener left the team after the 2003 season to join the Washington Redskins.

2000: 6th round, Jason Gavadza, Kent State
2001: None
2002: None
2003: None
2004: 6th round, Matt Kranchick, Penn State
2005: 1st round, Heath Miller, Virginia

For the 4th time in the Steelers history, the team spent a first round pick on a tight end (Bennie Cunningham, Eric Green, Mark Breuner). Miller would be the rock upon which the team would rely on for three Super Bowl appearances and two wins. Productive throughout his 11 year career, Miller would end up with 592 receptions, 6569 yards and 45 touchdowns. One of the best blocking tight ends in the league, the Virginia product was also a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

2006-2015: Despite the presence of Heath Miller, the Steelers selected Charles Davis in the 5th and then Matt Spaeth in the 3rd round in the years following. Spaeth was a solid blocker and number two for four years before leaving for the Bears in free agency. Spaeth would return in 2013 and spend three more years with the team.

2006: 5th round, Charles Davis, Purdue
2007: 3rd round, Matt Spaeth, Minnesota
2008: None
2009: 7th round, David Johnson, Arkansas State
2010: None
2011: None
2012: 7th round, David Paulson, Oregon
2013: None
2014: 7th round, Rob Blanchflower, UMass
2015: 5th round, Jesse James, Penn State

With Miller and Spaeth both nearing the end of their careers, the Steelers picked Jesse James in the 5th round, the first time they used a pick in the first five rounds on a tight end since Spaeth in 2007. James was a serviceable tight end from 2015 until 2018 when he left the Steelers in free agency.

2016-2019: After drafting James, the Steelers turned to different methods to procure their tight ends, free agency and trades. The Steelers signed Ladarius Green to a 4-year deal in 2016, but injuries limited him to only six games with the team. With Green not working out, the next season the Steelers traded for Vance McDonald from the 49ers. Although McDonald has dealt with his own injuries, he’s been the starter when healthy since arriving. In 2019 the Steelers traded for Nick Vannett from the Seahawks after McDonald was injured.

2016: None
2017: None
2018: None
2019: 5th round, Zach Gentry, Michigan

2000-2020 draft tight end breakdown

Total selections: 10

Selections by round:

1st round: 1
2nd round: 0
3rd round: 1
4th round: 0
5th round: 3
6th round: 2
7th round: 3

Selections by conference:

SEC: 0
ACC: 1
Big 12: 0
Big 10: 5
PAC 10: 1

Power 5: 7
Group of 5: 3

The Steelers have shown a penchant for Big 10 tight ends, spending half of their 10 selections on players from that conference. … Zach Gentry is currently the only drafted tight end on the Steelers’ roster. … Christian Scotland-Williamson and Kevin Rader were undrafted pickups.

NFL Draft

NFL Releases Pro Day Schedules

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The 2021 NFL Combine should be kicking off this week in Indianapolis, but like so many other things in the past year, it has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NFL has decided not to risk bringing together prospects, scouts and media from around the country and will instead be relying on the schools’ individual pro days to evaluate prospects.

With that in mind, the league has taken a greater measure of control over the process, and on Wednesday, released a preliminary schedule for each team’s pro day.

March 5: Kansas

March 9: Kansas State, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Whitewater

March 10: Arkansas, Marshall, Maryland, Wisconsin

March 11: Clemson, Nevada, Texas

March 12: Arkansas State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma

March 15: Army, Kent State, Middle Tennessee St., Vanderbilt

March 16: Georgia Tech, Temple

March 17: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Pitt, San Jose St.

March 18: Auburn, Buffalo, Central Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe,
Stanford, Troy, West Virginia

March 19: Memphis, Ohio, TCU

March 22: Air Force, Bowling Green, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Iowa, Missouri, Toledo

March 23: Alabama, Central Michigan, Iowa State, Nebraska, Purdue

March 24: Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, USC, Virginia

March 25: Georgia Southern, UMass, Ole Miss, North Texas, Penn State, San Diego St., SMU, Tennessee, Western Michigan

March 26: Boston College, BYU, Michigan, South Dakota State, Virginia Tech

March 29: Arizona State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), North Carolina

March 30: Alabama, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, NC State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tulane, Washington

March 31: Boise State, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Notre Dame, Wake Forest

April 1: UCF, Minnesota, Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, USF, Western Kentucky

April 2: Oregon, Tulsa

April 7: Texas Tech

April 9: UAB, Ball State, Houston

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2021 NFL Draft

Should Steelers Use First Round Pick on a Center?

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Does the news of Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement mean the Steelers should now draft a center in the first round? Pouncey’s absence obviously creates a need at an important position, but is center now a big enough hole that it becomes the top priority?

Should Steelers Draft a Center in the First Round?

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NFL Draft

NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process

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After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.

Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.

Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.

Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.

Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.

Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.

Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.

Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.

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