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Pitt TE With Eye On A Spot

The Steelers kept this ace up their sleeve throughout the draft.

Late in the fourth round, the team with the tight end who spent most of the 2016 season out with head and foot injuries was looking over an impressive list of tight ends still on the board -- and they drafted a quarterback.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected QB Joshua Dobbs, those tight ends went in the top of the fifth round in a quintessential run: Jake Butt first, George Kittle second, Jordan Leggett sixth and Jeremy Sprinkle 10th.

The Steelers had some names left, but they looked elsewhere again in the fifth. They took a 6-3 cornerback project with their pick, and Drake TE Eric Saubert was picked next.

It's not that the Steelers hated the Drake. It was nothing like that. They just had an ace up their sleeve. They needed a blocker and that's what they were able to sign after the draft in the local guy, the first prospect to visit them in the spring, Scott Orndoff out of the University of Pittsburgh and Seton-La Salle High.

The 6-5, 254-pounder from Waynesburg might be the undrafted rookie with the best chance of making the team. The returning veterans include last year's injury-plagued Ladarius Green, along with Jesse James, David Johnson and Xavier Grimble. 

Orndoff joins one other newcomer, Ryan Malleck, an undrafted free agent in 2016 out of Virginia Tech, formerly a camp participant with the New York Giants, in the competition. 

Orndoff is the son of a high school coach, R. Scott Orndoff, a former USFL player, and became then-coach Paul Chryst's first recruit to Pitt, where he started immediately.

But Orndoff's freshman season ended after five games with a knee injury, and as a sophomore and junior he caught only 17 passes. 

He broke out as a senior under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada last year with 35 catches for 579 yards and five touchdowns to finish second on the team in all categories.

Orndoff's shining moment coincided with his team's when he caught nine passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in Pitt's upset of eventual national champion Clemson. 

Orndoff also played a key role in Pitt's win over Georgia Tech. His 74-yard touchdown catch with 3:50 left tied a game Pitt eventually won with a field goal as time expired.

His career numbers at Pitt -- 58 catches for 897 yards (15.5 avg.) and 13 touchdowns -- topped those of legendary Pitt tight end Mike Ditka (45-730-7), but it came as no surprise that Orndoff looked up to another local legend at the position during his college career. 

"My favorite tight end growing up was always Heath Miller," Ordnoff said at the NFL Combine. "I was a Steelers fan. I realize it more now than I did when he was still playing, but he was just a complete, solid tight end. He was a reliable pass-catcher. He was out there first through third down and it seemed like anytime they needed him to make a play he came down with it."

Orndoff was generally regarded as a sixth-round pick in this draft, but of course long-snappers can get in the way. However, the Steelers could just as well have made Orndoff that sixth-round choice according to the following analysis: 

"He has good spatial awareness and the ability to beat zone coverage consistently," according to Kyle Crabbs of NDT Scouting. "A reliable inline blocker, Orndoff projects favorably as a team's TE2 where he can influence the game as a red-zone target and be relied upon in game situations to be an effective pass or run blocker."

"Orndoff is an NFL-ready blocker in all aspects," wrote Joe Marino of NDT. "He can create running lanes inline, seal defenders in space, and even handle edge rushers in pass protection. He compliments his blocking skills with a modest but useful skill set as pass catcher."

"Blocker first and a pass-catcher second," Derrik Klassen of Optimum Scouting wrote.  "Orndoff has enough size to match his willingness to block and strength to do so. He works downhill in the run game and does a fine job of staying engaged through the whistle. Orndoff can pass protect, as well. He shows the coordination and anchor to handle linebackers on the edge, even from a true in-line position."

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