In a recent article on ESPN.com, the site’s NFL Nation reporters were each asked to select one veteran who might not make the 2016 roster of the team they cover. Jeremy Fowler, who covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for the site, chose tight Matt Spaeth and here’s what he had to say regarding his choice:
The Steelers’ roster is pretty well-defined. There aren’t many obvious roster casualties. After blocking for the Steelers for seven of his nine NFL seasons, Spaeth might be nearing the end. The Steelers have two primary options with Ladarius Green and Jesse James, plus they just signed David Johnson, who’s mostly a blocker, and they like former USC standout Xavier Grimble as a fringe roster player. The Steelers keep bringing back Spaeth because of his steady play and understanding of the offense. But when roster cuts force tough decisions, Spaeth could find himself in a vulnerable spot.
If you’ve read a lot of my posts this offseason concerning the Steelers tight end depth chart, you probably already know by now that I’m in full agreement with Fowler because of all the reasons he mentioned above. While I’ve always considered myself a fan of Spaeth, and especially during his first stint in Pittsburgh when he was extremely under-appreciated as a blocker, it was very clear to me last season that he’s no longer the dependable player that he once was when it comes to that area of his game. Additionally, being as Spaeth missed a few games last season because of injuries, you have to wonder about his overall durability moving forward and especially being as he’s already 33 years of age.
Spaeth is certainly primed to be beat out this offseason by both Jesse James and Xavier Grimble, who spent all of last season on the team’s practice squad. Not only that, both of those young tight ends could wind up easily replacing Spaeth this year on special teams as well. While the Steelers wouldn’t reap a huge salary cap saving by cutting ties with Spaeth prior to the start of the 2016 regular-season being as he’s currently scheduled to earn an even $1 million in the final year of his current contract, it would be one less player on the team whose full salary would be fully guaranteed as such is the case with all fully vested veterans.
If one were forced to choose a different player other than Spaeth when it comes to current Steelers veterans who are most likely to be parted-ways with by the start of the regular-season, kicker Shaun Suisham would easily be my choice and for very obvious reasons. For starters, Chris Boswell kicked extremely well last year while Suisham spent the entire season on the team’s injured reserve list with a torn up knee that he suffered during the preseason. Additionally, cutting or trading Suisham for a draft pick prior to the start of the regular season would result in a cap savings of $2.4 million prior to roster displacement taking place. In his case, his replacement would be Boswell, who is scheduled to earn $525,000 in 2016.