Pittsburgh Steelers' pre-draft position watch: Tight end


Overview: Heath Miller remains one of the top all-around tight ends in football -- and one of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's most trusted targets. Miller caught 66 passes for 761 yards and three touchdowns, but the Steelers did not get much more than blocking from his two backups. Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer combined for just four catches for 47 yards. The Steelers re-signed Spaeth to a two-year contract and he has a lot of value as a blocker. They did not bring back Palmer.

Draft priority: High. The Steelers can’t clone Miller and the 10th-year veteran can’t play forever though he probably has a couple of good seasons left in him. The Steelers could use an infusion of youth and athleticism at the position. It will be a surprise if they don’t draft a tight end even though it is not considered a strong class.

Last player drafted at position: Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round last year. The UMass product spent all of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad.

Dream pick: Maxx Williams, Minnesota. Williams is widely considered the top tight end of the draft after catching 36 passes for 549 yards and eight touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore in 2014. The 6-4, 249-pounder has the potential to be a complete tight end at the next level, and there aren’t many of those coming out of college anymore. Williams just turned 21 and has plenty of room for growth, especially from a physical standpoint. He’d be ideal to develop under Miller’s tutelage and then succeed Miller in a couple of seasons. The Steelers aren’t going to draft Williams in the first round. He probably won’t fall to them in the second. If he does, the Steelers should pounce.

Practical pick: Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State. The Steelers hosted Heuerman for a pre-draft visit and the 6-5, 254-pounder is a solid blocker and has potential as a pass-catcher. Heuerman caught just 17 passes last season for the Buckeyes but he played with three different starting quarterbacks and battled a nagging foot injury. Heuerman or Penn State tight end Jesse James could be the Steelers’ pick in the fourth or even fifth round if one or both lasts that long.

He said it: “He has length and toughness and strength and he’ll be a blocker. Most of these tight ends can’t block and won’t. He will and he was one of [Ohio State coach] Urban Meyer’s favorite players. He’s a throwback. I think he’s a fourth-round type of draft choice.” -- ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. on Heuerman