A few weeks back, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger explained the decision to throw a pass to tight end Matt Spaeth late in a victory on fourth and one with the lead basically by saying that he deserved it for all of the dirty work that he puts in as a run blocker.
He’s been back to all the dirty work since then, having not been targeted before nor since. But he wasn’t brought back into the fold to be Tony Gonzalez. He was brought back here to do the dirty work, and that’s just what he found himself doing last week against the Tennessee Titans, helping pave the way for a 200-yard day for running back Le’Veon Bell.
Late in the first half, the Steelers ran off right guard in a short yardage situation, facing a second and three. Bell cut back inside of the right tackle with both Spaeth and Heath Miller on the perimeter.
With Spaeth initially held off Wesley Woodyard, he eventually broke free after Bell got to the second level, and recorded the primary tackle after a nine-yard gain, but the primary objective of converting the short yardage first down was accomplished.
The Steelers opened up the second half with two tight ends as well, both lined up to the left of the offensive line. Spaeth, as is just about always the case, lined up tight against the line next to the left tackle.
Woodyard was not able to escape Spaeth this time, even if the play itself only gained five yards on first down. Bell tried to hug tight against Kelvin Beachum’s block, but his defender slipped free, and it was too late for the back to get around, even though Spaeth had been able to turn the linebacker aside.
After the Steeler managed to put together back to back touchdown drives in the second half to overcome an 11-point deficit, the offense turned itself over to Bell and the running game to close things out, and that meant a lot of three tight end sets.
While Spaeth was reserved for a lot of perimeter and backside containment on this final series, he did get his work in. On this run, Woodyard was again lined up across from him, and he blocked the linebacker straight on until he started to get free as the runner approached. Spaeth wound up pushing him into the back of Bell as he was being tackled, which helped vault him forward for an extra yard or two.
This was the play that sealed the game, at the two-minute warning, on second and one. The Titans used their last timeout after the conversion, but the Steelers still ran out the clock without gaining another yard. Spaeth chipped on the defensive end before driving Woodyard out of the play as Bell went for five yards to clinch the victory.