Steelers Urged to Acquire Rival Offensive Weapon

Mike Tomlin

Getty Mike Tomlin coaches from the sideline.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have watched Baltimore Ravens tight ends dominant the NFL in recent years. With that in mind, it might be time for the Steelers to sign a former Ravens tight end in free agency.

At least that’s what The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly argued when he proposed the Steelers target Ravens tight end Josh Oliver in NFL free agency.

“The Steelers liked the 6-foot-5 Oliver coming out of San Jose State, bringing him in for a pre-draft visit before he was drafted in the third round by Jacksonville in 2019,” Kaboly wrote. “The soon-to-be 26-year-old was traded to Baltimore in 2020 and is coming off his best season, featuring improved blocking and a career-high 14 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.”

Oliver posted those statistics as the Ravens third tight end on the depth chart. He recorded 23 receptions, 215 yards and 2 scores in 31 games with Baltimore over two seasons.

How Josh Oliver Could Fit With the Steelers

The Steelers have tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Connor Heyward on their rookie contracts. Freiermuth has the potential to emerge as one of the best at the position in the league, and Heyward made some really big plays for the Steelers during the second half of the season.

But the team needs depth at tight end with Zach Gentry set to become a free agent. So general manager Omar Khan could gauge Oliver’s interest in remaining in the AFC North as a third tight end but switching sides in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry.

In addition to his pass-catching ability, Oliver is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. The Pro Football Focus player grades ranked him the No. 1 run blocking tight end in the league last year. PFF also rated Oliver 11th at tight end in pass protection (among tight ends who played at least 50% of his team’s snaps).

According to PFF, Oliver is a far better blocker than Gentry. PFF ranked Gentry in the bottom 11 in both run blocking and pass protection last season.

Oliver’s pass-catching ability is enticing but the upgrade he would be in blocking makes him a very intriguing free agent option for the Steelers.

More Likely Free Agency Tight End Scenario for Steelers

While Oliver could be an upgrade over Gentry, Kaboly still considered Oliver and Gentry landing new contracts with their current teams the more likely scenario this offseason.

“Oliver very well could be re-signed by the Ravens,” Kaboly wrote. “The Steelers will likely bring back Zach Gentry and call it a day, especially with his unique blocking skills that are utilized against 4-3 teams with big defensive ends.”

Gentry registered 19 receptions for 132 yards in 17 games last season. He has 39 catches for 303 yards in his four-year career.

While PFF considers Oliver a far superior blocker than Gentry, the current Steelers tight end provides a very unique size as a blocker against defenders. Gentry stands at 6-foot-8 and 256 pounds. Oliver is 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds.

Gentry has also expressed his desire to stay with the Steelers this offseason.

“We’ll see how it all ends up, but I would definitely be happy to remain in Pittsburgh,” said Gentry in an interview with Van Tate of KRQE Sports in Albuquerque.

If the Steelers can’t bring back Gentry and are unable to sign Oliver, Kaboly also proposed former Steelers tight end Jesse James and Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample as free agent options at the position.

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