By Matthew Marczi
Pro Football Focus has not been very charitable in their grading of Matt Spaeth since he made his season debut three games ago. He didn’t see significant time in his first game back, but that has changed over the last two weeks.
Based on their grading, this decision to give him so much playing time is baffling to Pro Football Focus, because they’re not fans of his blocking ability at all in 2013—though he was their highest-rated run-blocking tight end just last year while he was still a member of the Chicago Bears.
I don’t quite see what they evidently see when they go back and watch the tape from the past two games and see how Spaeth plays. While he hasn’t been Heath Miller in his prime, he has done a more than serviceable job and has been an asset to the running game, which is saying something considering the foot injury that he is likely still recovering from that had him miss the first three months of the season.
On this early first quarter run, for example, Spaeth picked up a rushing Clay Matthews attempting to cut inside behind Mike Adams at tight end. Spaeth’s ability to block Matthews allowed Le’Veon Bell to cut outside for a first down.
Later in the first quarter, his block on Nick Perry, the other outside linebacker, helped Bell get to the right edge for a six-yard-plus gain on second and seven that set up third and inches, and eventually a touchdown two plays later.
After Bell’s fumble, he responded with a 25-yard run on his next carry, which included leaping over a defender, but it was the blocking that allowed it to happen. David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert sealed one side of the hole, while Spaeth and a pulling Ramon Foster sealed the other side.
For all his work as a blocker since returning, Ben Roethlisberger finally tossed Spaeth a bone, as he threw him a pass in the end zone at the end of that same drive, which he caught for not only his first touchdown, but his first reception of the season. It was also his first catchable target of the year.