With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: TE Matt Spaeth
Stock Value: Even
Veteran tight end Matt Spaeth finds himself at an interesting point of his career—more specifically, toward the end of his career, during which his peers are retiring and their positions are being filled by newer, younger, talented players.
Since the 2014 season, the tight end position has really been remade, with Spaeth as the only carryover. Heath Miller has, of course, since retired, and Will Johnson, who began the conversion to tight end that year, has signed elsewhere. Michael Palmer was a veteran journeyman easily replaced.
Filling Miller’s spot is now Ladarius Green, who adds a whole new dimension to the position with his speed and route tree. Bringing up the rear is second-year former fifth-year draft pick Jesse James. It’s still not entirely clear where exactly Spaeth fits in, but he undoubtedly has a place in there.
It is an interesting situation because there are two compelling forces in each direction. On the one hand, Green was obviously brought in to be the starter, and Spaeth would likely never have been asked to carry out such a role. Yet Green is not entering the fray with much of a reputation as a blocker, and Spaeth specializes in that area, particularly in the running game. There, he still undoubtedly has value.
Yet the level of development of James on the opposite end could stand to cut into some of his opportunities as the second tight end. Of course, James is still very much a developing talent who is being groomed for a bigger role, but his time is not necessarily now.
That is significant given that Spaeth, in his age-33 season, is entering the final year of his contract, and what might prove to be the final season of his career, regardless of how things transpire with the rest of the roster at the tight end position. The Steelers are likely to take full advantage of his services this year particularly if they envision this being the end of the road.
The team did not address the position during the draft, but they did carry over a tight end from the practice squad that they are a fan of. Ultimately, through the entire offseason process, including the draft, even in spite of the roster shakeup, I don’t see that Spaeth’s stock in the team has fluctuated much through it all. He has his role, and he will serve that role.