Kinney would beef up Steelers attack

The Steelers signed tight end Jay Riemersma last year after his release by Buffalo in the hopes he would give them a threat down the middle of the field to occupy opposing safeties and take pressure off of what they knew was going to be a weak rushing attack.

Riemersma responded with a season that showed why he had fallen out of favor in Buffalo. The veteran tight end caught just 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown and missed several games because of injury.

And with Riemersma set to turn 31 years old in May, it is doubtful, that he is going to be any better in 2004, meaning you can officially label his signing a bust.

But what to do about it?

Riemersma is due contracts of $1.15 and $1.3 million over the next two seasons, money that won't exactly break the bank, but money that could be spent better elsewhere.

And with fellow tight end Mark Bruener's impending release, the Steelers are definitely going to be in the market for a new tight end.

Perhaps their best move would be to go after not only a replacement for Bruener, but one for Riemersma as well.

Tennessee's Erron Kinney would fit the bill.

The 6-5, 275-pound Kinney has been a solid performer in his four NFL seasons, showing soft hands and an ability to get open down the field. And while he is not a tremendous blocker in the Bruener mold, his size alone makes him capable of helping out in that aspect of the game.

The 26-year-old Kinney is coming off his best season in the NFL and is just reaching his prime. Stepping into the starting lineup last season for injured Frank Wycheck, Kinney caught 41 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns.

With Wycheck's retirement, the Titans would love to have Kinney back, but given their current salary cap woes and the fact they must also re-sign defensive end Jevon Kearse, Kinney will be allowed to look elsewhere for work.

And the Steelers should seriously consider releasing Riemersma and going after Kinney.

Releasing Riemersma before June 1 would save the Steelers about $600,000 on this year's salary cap, while waiting until after June 1 would increase that figure to around $900,000. Either way, they should make a move.

And that money, coupled with the purging of Bruener's $2.395-million salary, would give the Steelers enough money to take a serious run at Kinney, who is considered one of the top free agent tight ends on the market this year.

It would also fit Steelers head coach Bill Cowher's longtime MO of signing players who have played well against the Steelers in the past.

Of Kinney's five career touchdown passes, two have come against the Steelers; something Cowher is not likely to forget.

And while Kinney wasn't used all that much in the red zone in Tennessee until 2003, he could help the team prepare for the free agent loss of wide receiver Plaxico Burress in 2005.

If Burress leaves as a free agent following the 2004 season, the Steelers are going to need a secondary receiver behind Hines Ward to step in and help fill his shoes. Kinney would be more than capable of doing that, providing the Steelers with their best tight end receiving prospect since Eric Green.

Steel City Insider Top Stories