Replacing A Championship Roster – Matt Spaeth Returns To Familiar Role

The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced an uncommon amount of roster turnover over the last few seasons, which just so happened to coincide with consecutive years without a postseason berth.

As a result, we’re finding an unusual amount of new faces in the starting lineup compared just to last season, when the season before already introduced several new starters.

The rapid turnover in successive seasons certainly has much to do with the organization’s personnel management over the previous years. Time, as always, came out the victor as they felt the ramifications of trying to hold together a championship roster that could no longer perform like one.

Considering how different the projected starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season is from just two seasons ago, I think it would be interesting to revisit the roster from the 2010 season—the last time the Steelers competed for a championship—to see how different this new team truly is.

Matt Spaeth is one of the few pieces remaining from the Steelers’ last championship run, but it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that he is a leftover. Unlike Ben Roethlisberger, for example, Spaeth had a two-year sidetrack when he signed on with the Chicago Bears following that 2010 season that ended in a Super Bowl defeat.

But he re-signed with the Steelers last year after the Bears released him following their signing of Martellus Bennett. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have much opportunity to showcase the skills that he’d learned and honed over the past two years because his season was quickly derailed by a serious foot injury that required surgery.

He was placed on the injured reserve list and was designated to return, but that return seemingly took longer than anticipated. He missed the first 12 games of the season, and was only able to contribute meaningfully in the last three games.

The 2010 season was, in fact, the year that Spaeth had begun coming to form with respect to his body of work. It was in that season, after a few early bumps and bruises, that he began to show a penchant for run blocking—though he had his failings in pass protection—which he would only enhance while with Chicago.

Spaeth played well in that Super Bowl before leaving in free agency, however, in particular having one of his better games of the season as a run blocker. By the time he was set to come back to Pittsburgh, some viewed Spaeth as one of the better run-blocking tight ends in the league.

There is some evidence to suggest that even during last season, because the Steelers ran the ball much better during the final month of the season than in the first 11 or so games. Le’Veon Bell’s 100-yard game—the first by a Steelers running back in about a season and a half—came during his second game back up to full speed.

Spaeth figures to be markedly better than last season. As noted earlier, the number two tight end recently had screws removed from his injured foot, which had become loose, and the procedure forced him to rehab during the early OTA sessions.

But despite that, he said that his foot now feels better than it has in quite some time. The Steelers averaged better than half a yard per carry last season with him on the field, and if he’s back up and running as he should be, he no doubt wants to improve that figure even further.

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