Leading up to the NFL Draft each year, most scout's have what are often times referred to as "pound the table" guys. These are prospects that the scout has a tremendous amount of confidence in and will give a very high recommendation for that player. One of those prospects for me during this draft season is tight end Jace Sternberger from Texas A&M. After watching film on Sternberger, he has become one of my favorite prospects. He also happens to play a position that the Steelers have a need for. With that being said, Sternberger is a prospect that I am truly hoping that the Steelers take a hard look at when the draft comes around.
Jace Sternberger had a very interesting journey as a college football player. He began his college career at Kansas where he only played in ten games and finished with one reception for five yards. After a disappointing season at Kansas, Sternberger decided to try the JUCO route and transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Jace was a star in his one season there as he finished with 21 receptions for 336 yards and six touchdowns. This performance was enough to catch the attention of multiple Division 1 programs, ultimately leading him to sign with Texas A&M. As the tight end for the Aggies, Sterneberger burst onto the scene. He finished the 2018 season with 48 receptions for 832 yards and ten touchdowns. His performance earned him First Team All-American and All-SEC honors and he was also a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award. His play was also good enough that he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.
Sternberger continued to impress at the 2019 NFL Combine. He measured in at 6'4" and weighed 251 pounds. He also looked very comfortable in each of the drills they worked him through, especially as a pass catcher. Here are his results from the testing portion of the combine:
|40-yard dash||Bench Press||Vertical||Broad Jump||3 Cone Drill||20-yard shuttle|
Sternberger has shown on film that he is most dangerous as a receiving threat in the passing game. His biggest strength is his route running ability. He has very smooth, crisp routes which help him create separation from the defender. When he runs his routes, he basically looks like a bigger wide receiver. He also has very good hands. You will rarely see Sternberger drop a catchable ball. He will also go up and make catches in traffic and isn't afraid to take on contact when catching the ball. Sternberger has also shown ability to line up all over the field, whether it be on the end of the line of scrimmage as a true tight end, as an outside receiver, in the slot, or in an H-back/fullback role. This would be great for the Steelers as they like to move their tight ends around in different formations.
The biggest weakness that I've seen on film for Sternberger is his blocking ability. Although he does a decent job of angling his body to wall of defenders, he has a hard time engaging his hands and staying on blocks. He will need to learn how to use better pad level/leverage when taking on bigger defenders at the next level. He could also work on his physicality as a blocker as defenders in the league are a different type of animal in that regard. Another question mark for Sternberger is his deep speed. He doesn't seem to have that true explosive speed when trying to create separation from defenders. Fortunately for Sternberger, his route running made up for that in college. However, that may not work in college as defenders as faster and more physical at the next level.
With all things considered. I believe that Jace Sternberger would be a great addition for the Steelers. After the departure of Jesse James in free agency, they need another tight end to pair with Vance McDonald. Sternberger would be a great fit in that role as he will be give Ben Roethlisberger another weapon in the passing game, especially in the vertical passing game. The most realistic spot for the Steelers to draft him at would be with the second pick in the third round that they just acquired in the Antonio Brown trade. He is a prospect that could rise or fall when the draft comes around. Regardless of where he falls, he would be well worth the selection for the Steelers.