When the Pittsburgh Steelers first re-signed tight end Matt Spaeth in the offseason in 2013, they may have been imagining a game something like Sunday night’s performance. He played about half of the team’s offensive snaps as he helped power the running game for 193 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per play.
And because many have seemed to be forgotten, Spaeth does have the ability to catch footballs. He doubled his catch total since rejoining the Steelers with two receptions against the Cincinnati Bengals, though his previous two receptions went for touchdowns. He also caught a two-point conversion pass on a botched hold for an extra point try.
As a matter of fact, Spaeth actually had more receptions in the game than did Heath Miller, who logged just one reception for one yard, though that effort did yield a touchdown, the veteran’s third of the season.
Spaeth’s snap counts this season have been erratic as the Steelers figure out what their best personnel groupings are, though the opponent of course also comes into play. However, three of those games in which he saw at least 35 snaps were some of the best games of the season for the offense in terms of running the ball.
The Week Three game in Carolina, in which both Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount topped 100 yards, comes to mind, for example. Two others have come in recent weeks. A few weeks back in Tennessee, Spaeth helped power Bell to a career-best 204 yards rushing.
Just this past Sunday, his blocking was instrumental in seeing the second-year back rush for 185 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns on the ground. It’s obvious that the Steelers envision him primarily as a run blocking tight end, and over 60 percent of his snaps this season have come in that form.
It’s interesting to note that the Steelers have begun to be more creative with Spaeth when it comes to run blocking recently, which is something that I took notice of during the course of the last game.
Typically, when the team has run the counter left behind a pulling David DeCastro, he has been joined by Miller pulling as well, and/or Will Johnson. Spaeth, meanwhile, has seen the majority of his snaps as a head up in-line blocker, tight against the offensive line, even in three tight end looks.
On Sunday, the Steelers gave him a few chances to be one of the lead blockers on their go to running play. At 5:32 in the first quarter, for example, Miller motioned left prior to the snap while Spaeth remained tucked behind the right tackle. He pulled around the left side at the snap to help seal off a pair of linebackers as Bell raced for an 18-yard gain up the left sideline.