Is The Tackle-Eligible Doomed To Go The Way Of The Dodo?

In order to stem the tide of injuries that engulfed the tight end position during the early portions of the 2013 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers resolved to use their reserve offensive linemen as tackle-eligible ends last year.

During the first four games of the season, that role went to Kelvin Beachum, though his tight end days were brief and sporadic. In the first game, he was forced to take over at center after just eight snaps, and in Week Four, instead of playing on the end, he rotated at both tackle positions.

By Week Five, however, Beachum was the starting left tackle, so it was Mike Adams’ turn to make up the difference thanks to the injuries at tight end. Following David Johnson’s season-ending injury in Week Six, Adams spent most of the rest of the season as Heath Miller’s wing man.

From Week Seven to Week 13, Adams played 156 snaps, averaging better than 22 per game, or about a third of the Steelers’ total offensive snaps. But things changed pretty drastically after that, and may be an indication of how things will take shape in 2014.

Adams was forced back into the starting lineup at left tackle in Week 14 due to an injury to Beachum, but that also happened to coincide with the return of Matt Spaeth from injury, who missed the first 12 games of the season.

Adams played just 10 snaps in the last three games: six the week after, four the following week, and then zero in the season finale.

With their one-two tight end punch restored, the tackle-eligible was all but ignored down the stretch when it once appeared to be an integral part of the Steelers’ offensive strategy by midseason. Or at least it certainly appeared that way as Adams was pancaking a defender into the end zone in front of Le’Veon Bell for a score.

Is this the plan going forward, to resume the two tight end dynamic that has long been a part of the Steelers’ offense? Was the tackle-eligible just a harmless experiment birthed out of desperation? After all, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and the Steelers needed tight ends in a bad way last year.

After all, it would seem to make sense to maximize the number of people on the field capable of catching a football, especially when you have a legitimate franchise quarterback at your disposal such as Ben Roethlisberger.

Spaeth may not be Rob Gronkowski, but he’s capable of being a receiving threat. He didn’t get to show it much last season thanks to his injury, but at least his one catch came down the seam in the end zone on a play in which he was able to use his massive 6’7” frame to box out the defender.

I don’t think I want to see Adams or Beachum trying that one, let alone Guy Whimper, who actually has a touchdown or two in his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The problem, however, is that the Steelers firmly believe that they are at least six-deep along the offensive line, and they have too high a level investment in Adams for him to be rotting away on the bench, so they surely want to keep him active and get him snaps.

Short of winning a starting job, instituting a tackle rotation would be an atrocious idea, so the next best thing would be to at least line him up for a couple of running plays a game.

But if he wins the right tackle job? What to do with Marcus Gilbert? Could he play the tackle-eligible role? Or is the tackle-eligible doomed to go the way of the dodo in the Steelers’ offense?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Ben Taylor

    I think that we will continue to see the tackle-eligible as a part of the Steelers offense. I get the impression that Haley isn’t as in love with having as many tight ends on the field as possible like Arians was. The tackle-eligible should not only keep the run game going, but also provide some opportunities for play-action as well.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I agree, especially on two points Matt. Spaeth is a very good blocker and people cast him off as nothing else however, he is no stranger to TD’s when thrown to as his TD to catch ratio shows over his career. This was a sneaky good pick up actually just like LSH would have been except for his injury.

    I believe the moment of truth has come for Gilbert. A lot of people have all jumped on Adams last year, when he had no business going in at L/T and coming off a late start because of injury. One of two mistakes made, with Dwyer getting cut last year being the other.

    I believe Adams is a road grader at R/T and will get that spot back. I think Munchak will see right through Gilbert and I dare him to come into camp like he did last year and collapse just trying to finish the basic conditioning test with Munchak on board. The real deal has arrived. Hall of fame player and a great line coach who knows what it takes to be a professional. Don’t be surprised if this is Gilberts last year here unless he accepts the league minimum next year. #trueweaklink. lol

  • mokhkw

    I think the whole Gilbert-Beachum-Adams for LT/RT is back up in the air now Munchak is OL Coach.

    I wouldn’t pencil any of them in at any spot atm.

  • Steve

    Agree that Adams is better in run blocking, but he is terrible in pass blocking and this is how he lost the LT job to Beachum. Gilbert was not All Pro and had his mistakes but played hurt and consistantly.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Steve, Adams was out of position. Check out Gilberts stats. He allowed the most hurries, had the most penalties by far etc.

    I think if you put Adams back at R/T where he belongs, Gilbert will be the odd man out. Adams, was initially lost at left tackle and had no business being there, especially coming back late from an injury to a new position? That was a head scratcher.

    Gilbert was switched from LT for a reason. I think with Adams back at R/T, he will lose that position also. Munchak, will see through the BS. Like I said earlier, he better not show up like he did last year to camp, coming off an 8-8 season and the first year of the CBA off season workout program. That showed me a lot about his self discipline at this point in his career.