If you look at the snap count numbers for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run-heavy personnel, such as fullback Will Johnson and second tight end Matt Spaeth, you would think that the team went into the game against the Cleveland Browns looking to air the ball out.
Johnson hardly played, while Spaeth was limited to just 13 snaps. Even Justin Brown, the third wide receiver that the Steelers favor when running the ball, so a comparatively low snap count in comparison.
But that doesn’t take into account the fact that the circumstances of the game shifted radically through the first third. In fact, all of Spaeth’s snaps came in the first 20 minutes of the game, but plans, and personnel, had to change after the Steelers fell behind big early on.
And his performance while in the game was somewhat mixed, though that was not the case on the team’s second play of the game. Using a two tight end set with Spaeth lined up next to the left tackle and Heath Miller to his left off the line, the latter motioned to the other side of the formation before pulling back to the left at the snap.
The ball went to Le’Veon Bell, who ran the ball off left end, around a nice clearing block against defensive end Desmond Bryant. Miller also caught his defender in time, but Bell was still met in the hole by the inside linebacker after a modest gain.
The Steelers ran out of the same formation on the second play of their second drive, only Bell took the ball off the right side on this occasion. Spaeth held contain on the backside linebacker long enough to keep him out of the play.
That wasn’t exactly the case a few plays later on the same drive. This time, the Steelers loaded up on the right side with two tight ends. Spaeth was locked in with Armonty Bryant at left end with Miller taking on the outside linebacker. LeGarrette Blount looked to split between the two, but Bryant was able to get off his block and fill the hole to make the tackle.
On the end of that second drive, the Steelers ran three straight times on first and goal, starting from the eight-yard line. Spaeth was slow to close in on the inside linebacker, allowing him to get inside, though Bell was already getting swarmed by Bryant.
Spaeth fared a bit better on second down, but he still allowed the defender to spin off his block, who would have been in position to make a play had Bell gotten that far.
The second tight end played a few more snaps after that, but once the Steelers fell behind by double digits, the 12 personnel was packed away for the rest of the game. Spaeth has only played 105 snaps in six games, logging less than 15 snaps three times already.