Steelers’ 3 best, 3 worst TE draft picks in Kevin Colbert era
Editor’s note: This NFL Draft will be the 20th under the eye of Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. In conjunction with the Trib’s daily positional previews leading up to the April 25 start of the draft, we’ll look back at Colbert’s three best — and three worst — picks at each position.
The Steelers widely are expected to take a tight end at some point in the draft later this month, and they could do so early. That’s a departure from the team’s typical tack during the Colbert era.
Over the 19 drafts since Colbert took over football operations in 2000, the Steelers have selected a tight end just nine times. Of those picks, six were in the final two rounds and just two were among the first 159 picks of a draft.
Of course, this tendency to stay away from the tight end position is no small part because of how successful the Steelers were the time they took one with a premium pick. No. 30 overall selection Heath Miller became a starter immediately as a rookie in 2005 and was consistent for the next decade. For many years, that effectively took away the need for the Steelers to look for tight ends in the draft outside of a late-round flier.
With so few to choose from other than those particular types of instances, it’s not the cleanest position to evaluate. But here goes:
1. Heath Miller
2005, 1st round, 30th overall
Miller is not going to make the Hall of Fame, but he is an all-time Steelers great. As popular among fans as he was with his teammates, Miller was a starter for two Super Bowl champions and was a two-time Pro Bowler. He dominates the Steelers’ record books for receiving by a tight end.
2. Jesse James
2015, 5th round, 160th overall
James last month signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the Detroit Lions. If that’s any indication of his value as a player, it represents a steal to get him for four years at a bargain salary as a fifth-round pick. Though his tenure as Miller’s successor did not last long, James was a reliable and durable Steeler.
3. David Johnson
2009, 7th round, 241st overall
Johnson appeared in 105 games (including the playoffs) for two teams at two positions (including fullback) over an eight-year NFL career. Any team will take that from its second of two seventh-round picks in a draft. The Steelers liked Johnson so much, they brought him back after he spent his sixth and seventh seasons with the Chargers.
1. Charles Davis
2006, 5th round, 167th overall
With no egregious reaches, the “winner” of this category becomes the highest-drafted player at the position over this time span who never even spent a day on the Steelers’ 53-man roster or practice squad. Although Davis scratched his way to stay in the sport for five years, he never appeared in an NFL regular-season game.
2. Jason Gavadza
2000, 6th round, 204th overall
Who? Yeah, he was the final pick of the first draft that had Colbert at the helm. While no one expects a sixth-rounder to become a star, Gavadza didn’t even make it to the end of August of his rookie year before the Steelers released him.
3. Rob Blanchflower
2014, 7th round, 230th overall
It’s wholly unfair to label a pick just 26 selections away from Mr. Irrelevant as a poor one, but Blanchflower earns the dubious honor by default because he never so much as appeared in an NFL regular-season game, whereas other late-round Steelers tight ends David Paulsen and Matt Kranchick did.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .