By Matthew Marczi
The season-ending injury to tight end David Johnson has once against thrust second-year tight end David Paulson into action after his playing time had been truncated with the return of Heath Miller. He had his early season struggles as a blocker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and helped contribute to a dreadful running game in the early part of this season.
However, the role in which he is featured now is more fitting for his stature. Earlier this season, he was the de facto starting tight end with Miller and Matt Spaeth still sidelined and Johnson still working his way back from a cleanup operation on his surgically repaired knee, which is simply not his game.
With Miller now back up and running, Paulson no longer has to try to be the featured tight end. He is a complementary piece; in fact, with the Steelers heavily using Mike Adams as a tight end this past game, Paulson was only asked to play seven snaps against the Baltimore Ravens, but he had some success in that limited amount of time.
In fact, I do not have him down for having a bad play, through three of his seven were simple routes on which he was not targeted. He had two good blocks in the running game, however, and he added a 17-yard reception for good measure. On the first run block, Le’Veon Bell could have scored a touchdown if he could have beaten Lardarius Webb, but the cornerback did a good job to bring him down.
The Steelers line up both tight ends to the strong side for this carry near the goal line, along with one of their better blocking receivers, Emmanuel Sanders. Everybody does their job on the play. It was just a matter of a defensive player making a play. Sanders and Paulson block their men to the ground, but Webb is left for Bell to take on one-on-one, and he happens to lose this battle.
Late in the third quarter is another running play just outside the ten-yard line with both tight ends lined up to the right side, as well as Sanders.
With more room to spare, the defense does not play so close to the line. Miller and Paulson combine to open a hole for Bell to work through for a big gain. While Paulson loses hold of the block at the end, allowing Elvis Dumervil to chase, he is responsible for opening the hole in the first place.
Then there is Paulson’s one reception on his lone target of the day. He simply goes to the soft spot of the zone and sits down. Ben Roethlisberger’s pass is low, but Paulson hangs on to it to help jump start the Steelers’ first drive of the second half. Not a bad day for seven snaps.