The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to bring in pre-draft college prospects and on Tuesday, the team hosted two tight ends in Jeffrey Heuerman and Kennard Backman. They also brought in defensive tackle Xavier Cooper.
Heuerman has been consistently ranked in the top-five of all college prospects at the tight end position and CBSSports.com ranked him at third. Heuerman, out of Ohio State, caught 17 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns during the 2014 Buckeyes season. At 6-foot-5, 254 pounds, Heuerman has the ability to threaten the seams and puts together solid speed after the catch. With a vertical leap of 34 1/2 inches at the Buckeyes’ Pro Day, Heuerman reinforced talk that he has excellent body control and ability to get above defenders in the open field. He will need work on getting separation and protecting the edge of the offensive line. Heuerman started every game for the Buckeyes in 2013 and 2014. In 2014, he was selected second-team All-Big Ten and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2013.
Backman isn’t the biggest target, but his 6-foot-3 frame has allowed him to play larger than his listed size. Backman has the ability to adjust to poor throws and the athleticism to play well in the seam. Backman has great hands and a willingness to keep his legs moving after the catch for extra yardage. He could use work on his ability to run block and positioning himself to give tackle help in pass protection. Several NFL scouts consider Backman to be better suited for the H-back position in the NFL.
Cooper is the first defensive lineman that the Steelers have hosted. The defensive tackle stands at 6-foot-3, 293 pounds and is considered a mid-draft selection. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Cooper recorded a 4.86 second 40-yard dash time, bench pressed 29 reps and had a 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle time of 7.23 seconds and 4.37 seconds respectively. Cooper started all 25 games over the last two seasons (2013-14) with Washington State and was named Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 in 2012. That same year, Cooper won the Tim Petek Award for strongest man. Cooper played basketball and tight end in high school before playing both defensive tackle and defensive end in college. His hands remain active, giving him separation from blockers, especially in the run. Cooper times the snap well and fires off the ball while remaining an elusive target for offensive linemen to target. Cooper will need work in countering underneath in pass rushing instead of rounding the arc.
The Steelers have now hosted 16 of their 30 pre-draft visits allowed this offseason.
- The Steelers signed punter Jordan Berry to their offseason roster
- The Steelers to host Nebraska outside linebacker Randy Gregory on Thursday