By Matthew Marczi
Matt Spaeth shored up a critical deficiency as a second true tight end when he returned from injury following the first three months of the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers already started the year without Heath Miller, and it wasn’t too much longer that they also lost David Johnson, who was at the time the only other tight end on the roster with any semblance of blocking ability. It was obvious that the team was lacking a second tight end.
The team tried to make do, first using Kelvin Beachum as a second tight end before left tackle Mike Adams was benched. He then subsequently became the second tight end for a large stretch of the season until Spaeth finally returned.
That second tight end availability came in handy early in the first quarter when the Steelers were facing a third and one. Spaeth got off a great block on linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, driving him down the field and keeping his feet churning through the whistle as Jonathan Dwyer secured the first down.
After Brett Keisel sacked Jason Campbell and stripped him of the ball, the Steelers took over the ball with about four minutes to play in the first quarter. On first down, Ben Roethlisberger tossed a screen pass to fullback Will Johnson, who followed the blocks of his tight ends for a nine-yard gain.
Spaeth certainly had nothing to do with this play resulting in failure. It’s easy to overlook a good block on a play that ends up being a bust, but the veteran tight end put a good block on Jackson again here despite the fact that Le’Veon Bell ended up being tackled for no gain, thanks in part to Miller.
Once again, this run late in the game didn’t even go in Spaeth’s direction, but that doesn’t prevent him from continuing to do his job with energy when many other players often phone it in on the weak side.
At this point in the game, the Steelers were just looking to run out the clock, as they were already up 17-0 and a penalty on a punt return put them on Cleveland’s own 22-yard line. This was a simple clock-killing two-yard carry by Dwyer, yet Spaeth gave full effort in keeping Jabaal Sheard well out of the play.