With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Matt Spaeth.
When you ask one of your most veteran players to show you something, that can generally mean but one thing, and that is that his roster spot might well be in jeopardy. Though it’s not a certainty, that may be the position that 10th-year veteran Matt Spaeth finds himself in during training camp this year.
As he enters the final year of his contract and is preparing to turn 33, the former third-round draft pick is seeing the old guard around him chip away, with his longtime running mate Heath Miller recently hanging up the cleats and calling it a career.
The Steelers drafted Jesse James this year and spent $20 million over four years to bring in Ladarius Green, and it seems rather clear that the desire is for these two to feature as their top two tight ends in the offense. But they also have sprinkled kind words in the direction of practice squad tight end Xavier Grimble, and brought back former Steelers tight end David Johnson, who is also comfortable lining up in the backfield.
Perhaps the biggest feather in Spaeth’s cap at the moment quite simply his veteran experience, because he has by far the greatest amount of time logged in the Steelers’ system. Though Johnson was one a Steeler as well, he has been gone for two critical and transformative seasons. James is in just his second year, and Green new to the offense.
The strength of his game has always been his run blocking, and with Miller gone, the Steelers are unsure if they have any other consistently reliable run blockers on the roster that they could afford to part with Spaeth, and that fact alone may be enough to save his job, unless James proves to be so proficient at it during training camp as to render him expendable.
I suppose it may be too late for him to flash much in the way of being a receiving threat, as he hardly receives enough targets to raise every finger on a hand per season. His best bet is simply to continue to do what he has done, at the highest level that he can, while staying healthy. Otherwise he may indeed find himself on the outside of the roster bubble.