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Steelers Draft '17: Tight Ends

The Steelers can use a tight end who can put defenders in the dirt the way George Kittle can.

You hear the question every year at the NFL Combine and just once you would like a player to answer, "This one. This is the dumbest question I've heard."

But every year it comes around:

What's the dumbest question you've heard?

"Someone asked me if I was a cat or a dog," said George Kittle.

He's a tight end for Iowa and he was kicked back in his chair looking all brutish but at the same time relaxed.

Well, what did you say?

"I'm a dog," Kittle said with a smirk. "I'm going after that bone."

Woof.

Kittle (6-3 3/4, 247) is a blocking tight end, but he seems to be more than that, because he doesn't just block, he embarrasses.

https://twitter.com/ChiefsReporter/status/846731087430733824/video/1

And that's one element the Pittsburgh Steelers really could use at the position. It's why lineman Chris Hubbard played so much as a third tight end last season. It's why David Johnson was signed so quickly this offseason. More of a journeyman fullback/H-back type, Johnson is the best blocker they have at the position.

The Steelers have a serious pass-catching threat there in Ladarius Green, and in Jesse James they have someone who's developing into an all-around No. 2. And Xavier Grimble shows playmaking potential. But when it comes to knocking someone on his butt, or sealing the corner the way Matt Spaeth used to, the Steelers come up shy.

Has Kittle heard the tag "blocking tight end"?

"Yes, sir," he said.

Does it bother him?

"No, not at all," he said. "I know I'm a versatile tight end, but if someone wants to label me as a 'blocking tight end' I'll take that, because I came in at 200 pounds and I was not a blocking tight end. Over the past five years I've put on 50 pounds and that's something I've really put my mindset to, and something I've been really proud of. So, if you want to call me a blocking tight end, that's fine and I'll show I can do other things as well."

The next day Kittle did exactly that. His Combine times were some of the more surprising of the week. He ran his 40 in 4.52 with a 35-inch vertical jump and an 11-0 broad jump. Those are first-round numbers.

Kittle can catch the ball as well, but his 2016 stats show only 22 receptions for 314 yards and four touchdowns. He struggled with an injured foot.

"It was a mid-foot sprain and the only treatment for it was rest, which is hard to do in the middle of the football season," he said. "Last season I wasn’t going to sit out unless they made me."

Kittle's being graded by media analysts as a fourth through sixth-rounder, which would be perfect for a Steelers team that has more important needs. But Kittle, unlike most players at the Combine, wouldn't comment on the level of interest any team had shown.

"Just for the team's privacy I'm keeping that to myself," he said.

Kittle did spend four years playing in Iowa's black and gold. And his coach, Kirk Ferentz, is a Western PA native. Does Kittle have any kind of affinity for the team?

"Yeah, I love the Steelers," he said. "Black and gold looks good, man."

MY TAKE

Obviously, I'm a George Kittle fan, particularly if the Steelers can grab him in the fourth round. My guess is he'll need to be taken in the third round. My other favorites are monstrous Adam Shaheen (6-6 1/2, 278), the Pitt-Johnstown transfer to Ashland, and Jonnu Smith (6-2 1/2, 248), the poor guy who had boiling water poured over his head by a pregnant girlfriend who was feeling unappreciated because of his devotion to football. My guess is the Steelers won't feel the need to tend to this well-stocked draft position until taking a late-round project for the practice squad.

VALUE BOARD

Third Round -- Adam Shaheen, Ashland; George Kittle, Iowa.

Fourth Round -- Jonnu Smith, Florida International.

Fifth Round -- Michael Roberts, Toledo.

Sixth Round -- Scott Orndoff, Pitt; Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State.

Seventh Round -- Josiah Price, Michigan State; Jason Croom, Tennessee; Sam Rogers (FB), Virginia Tech.

* To read SteelCityInsider's March 22 profile on Adam Shaheen, click here.

* To get the complete breakdown of every prospect hosted by the Steelers this spring, check out the South Side message board.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Iowa TE George Kittle (6&#39;4&quot;, 247 pounds) isn&#39;t lacking aggression in the running game. <a href="https://t.co/Z687HqdfRG">pic.twitter.com/Z687HqdfRG</a></p>&mdash; BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChiefsReporter/status/846731087430733824">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote>

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