It is hard to speculate too much on a seventh-round draft pick. The odds are typically pretty long that he will make the final roster. Those odds are made longer when the player selected is injured and not especially talented.
This is the position the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in with their seventh-round pick, UMass tight end Rob Blanchflower. The UMass product offers very little in terms of an upgrade at the tight end position for the Steelers. And when you look at this group, that is saying something.
Starter: Heath Miller
Backups: Matt Spaeth, David Paulson, Michael Palmer
Now, don’t misunderstand. Miller is great. Not flashy, but incredibly consistent and productive. However, we all understand that Miller can’t play forever. To recap the tight end depth chart, Miller was a first-round pick, Spaeth a third-round selection; Paulson was a seventh-round pick and Palmer went undrafted.
Miller has made a Pro Bowl, but not since 2012, and he turns 32 in October. Spaeth has 50 career receptions since entering the league in 2007. Paulson and Palmer have totaled 35 receptions over six combined seasons.
Not exactly a group to get excited about. You would think a rookie would feel pretty confident about going in and taking one of those spots. However, when it doesn’t look like you can crack this group, you know things are bad.
A lot of the problems with Blanchflower and his future with the Steelers centers on his health. There is always a chance the Steelers could see enough Miller in Blanchflower’s game to stash him away on IR for the year, hoping he is ready to roll in 2015.
This is really the best-case scenario for Blanchflower. He really is a nice tight end prospect when healthy. He is a decent in-line blocker and has dependable hands. He isn’t going to run away from anyone, and he doesn’t fit the mold of what many teams are looking for in a tight end.
His routes are all primarily short and intermediate, and he is not threat to stretch the field. Blanchflower looks the part of a second tight end, which comes in during short-yardage situations to make the tough catch and move the chains.
Nevertheless, the Steelers do things a bit old-school. They have never really even entertained the notion of an athletic, hybrid tight end. No, if you are going to play tight end for the Steelers, you’d better be big and physical and willing to do the dirty work. An antiquated notion to be sure.
Worst-case scenario for Blanchflower is he isn’t able to get up to speed and simply becomes another late-round prospect who is released before getting a chance. No one wants that to happen. However, the reality is it is going to be a real uphill climb for Blanchflower to make this roster.
Weight: 256 pounds
Arm Length: 33.75 inches
Hands: 9.625 inches
2012: 43 receptions, 464 yards, two touchdowns
2013: 27 receptions, 313 yards, three touchdowns