End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Matt Spaeth
Position: Tight End
Experience: 8 Years
Tight end Matt Spaeth is never going to be a player who impresses you unless you watch him, because he is not, and will never be, a playmaker. Since returning the Pittsburgh two seasons ago, Spaeth has totaled four receptions for 57 yards, though two of those receptions were converted into touchdowns.
Despite the fact that he runs routes about as often as he stayed in to pass protect when he is used on passing downs, Spaeth is not regarded as much of a threat as a receiver, even if it is something that he has shown he is capable of doing on occasion.
I think the very fact that the significant majority of his playing time comes on running downs, however, says everything that needs to be said about the type of player the Steelers believe Spaeth to be, which should be fairly well established in his eighth season in the league, having been Tomlin’s first offensive draft pick ever as a head coach.
Simply put, the Steelers are a better running team when Spaeth is healthy and on the field. There is some credible correlation between Spaeth returning at the end of the 2013 season and Le’Veon Bell finally starting to pick up the pace in the final four games of his rookie season.
That continued to be the case as he was finally healthy during the 2014 season, and he helped Bell become an All-Pro runner as a result. And even then, the Steelers struggled to find him playing time given the frequency with which they played out of the 11 personnel a year ago.
Two of Spaeth’s best games of the year, for example, just so happened to be two of Bell’s best, when he rushed for 204 yards against the Titans and then 185 yards a couple weeks later against the Bengals. The veteran saw two of his highest snap counts of the year in those two games after the Steelers realized that they would be able to run the ball.
Spaeth’s two-year contract will expire in March, and though the veteran will turn 32 in November, the Steelers will no doubt be interested in re-signing him once again, as there has been no obvious indication of a drop off in his play. He only plays about a third of the offensive snaps, currently, which will allow him to save on wear and tear. Still, the team is determined to address the tight end position in the draft, and that could include Spaeth’s ultimate replacement.