I've been convinced forever that a TE can make or break an offense. And it's been a little maddening as a Steelers fan until we finally draft Eric Green and then many years later Heath Miller.
A TE is the most versatile athlete in the offensive repertoire. They can block inline and help the running game. The can pull LBs and Ss out of the box to help the running game. The can open up the vertical passing game on the outside by controlling the middle of the field. They can be used as a lead blocker. They can provide extra protection on long passing downs in the backfield. They can be the ultimate safety valve for a QB to keep the chains moving. And Heath Miller is truly one of the most well rounded TEs in the game. But I think the biggest reason this offense isn't clicking is Heath isn't 100%. He's a shell of his typical self.
And not only is Heath's subpar play hurting this offense, but having no backup TEs that belong on an NFL roster are compounding the problem. We either have to use a guy that can't block who's relatively ineffective in the passing game. Or a lineman who can't do anything in the passing game and is a relatively ineffective blocker. Our #2 and #3 TE options are pathetic. Sometimes I think how good you are at running the football is really a reflection of how good your TE play is. And we're downright awful running the ball.
I've been an advocate for drafting another top TE to pair with Heath for years. And I don't think the Steelers and their fans should discount how valuable having 2 premiere TEs can be for an offense. NE pretty much showed the NFL that having 2 guys like Gronk/Hernandez can make an offense virtually unstoppable. But the team that laid the blueprint for how effective an offense can be with 2 premiere TEs was our very own Steelers. Pairing Heath and Hines was like having the most dynamic TE duo in the league. I know Hines was a WR, but the way he was used in the offense wasn't all that different than the way many teams use their TE. WRs don't block DEs. And Hines did. Hines worked the middle of a zone better than any TE in the game and he blocked and sealed the edge better than 90% of the glorified receiving TEs.
With Heath not fully healthy and Hines gone, we're a mess offensively. We're a mess in the running game. Our WRs on the outside are always struggling facing cover 2 most of the time. Nothing's working and Ben's gotta hold the ball even longer for guys to come open. And we can't block so he doesn't have the extra time. It's one giant disaster.
The quickest path to fixing everything that ails this offense is a top TE. I hope the team finally figures this out and does the right thing and either drafts a top TE or goes out and gets one via FA. Although I'm not sure we can afford the latter. If we get a top TE and Heath returns to form next year, this offense could flip from one of the worst to one of the best. We'll be able to run the ball. We'll be able to block better and take pressure off the OLine and Ben. We'll be more effective passing. Ben will be more relaxed and take less hits. Heck, even Haley should be able to call some plays that don't make us all say WTF?
Let's do this. We've needed to do this for a long time. It's finally time to do the right thing. Bring in a new shiny TE for this offense and watch it soar!!!!