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Old 06-01-2007, 06:02 AM   #1
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Default TE's Stand Tall

Steelers' tight ends get chance to stand tall in restructured offense
Friday, June 01, 2007

By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the new Steelers realm, these men aren't so much tight ends as they are titan ends.

This was a position relatively unnoticed and unused for a decade and a half, assigned to block or run decoy routes mostly. So why did Steelers coaches and scouting types suddenly upsize their personnel? To stock their offseason basketball team? To plunk another tackle in tight-end clothing at line's end? To try to find another Larry Brown, the hulking, circa-1970s tight end ultimately shoved inside to tackle?

"We'll let them come off the bus first, that's for sure," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said jokingly about his substantial quintet.

In fact, only two of the other 84 players on the Steelers' roster stand as tall or taller than any of these tight ends. Those two are 6-foot-8 Max Starks and 6-9 Jason Capizzi of Pine-Richland High School and IUP, both offensive tackles.

It is not easy getting these fellows around the same lunch table at the South Side facility, let alone into the same meeting room after an organized team activity day: Cody Boyd, a 6-8, 264-pound free agent from Washington State; Matt Spaeth, a 6-7, 270-pound third-round selection from Minnesota; Jon Dekker, a 6-5, 250-pound free-agent returnee from Princeton; Heath Miller, the 6-5, 256-pound incumbent starter and former first-rounder, and Jerame Tuman, the 6-4, 253-pound veteran of the big bunch.

"Everybody's all similar size," said Spaeth, though he and Boyd have the other three by a few inches and pounds. "And everybody's kind of a similar style tight end."

Therein lies the reason the Steelers are pumping up the volume and mass at the position.

Arians, who succeeds new Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt as the Steelers' offensive boss, aims to operate from packages containing two tight ends, one running back and the ability to move Miller around a formation from which to run or pass. Miller had 34 catches and five touchdowns last year, but was perhaps underused. Perhaps, all the Steelers' tight ends were: Tuman had seven catches and one touchdown, giving this two-man group nearly half as many scores (six) as the team's four main receivers.

Moreover, it's a position catching on, not only within their division but also around their conference. This was an AFC North where Cleveland got 127 receptions from its tight ends, including 89 from Kellen Winslow Jr., and where Baltimore got 95, including 73 from Todd Heap. This was an AFC where Indianapolis totaled 85 receptions from three tight ends and New England 81.

"We want to have a package of three," Arians said.

So they start work with these five: Boyd, who conjured almost half his career 35 receptions and 466 yards as a Washington State redshirt freshman four years ago, when he was named to The Sporting News all-Pac-10 freshmen team; Spaeth, the Mackey Award winner and first-team All-American who had 47 catches in a senior year twice interrupted by shoulder injuries; Dekker, a Princeton man who caught four passes in the Steelers' 2006 preseason before being among the final cuts; Miller, already redefining a Steelers position with 73 receptions and 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons; and Tuman, the steady vet who started four games last season in two tight-end formations and started 55 games in his nine-year career.

For Spaeth, an April draftee about whom Arians immediately gushed that he was "ecstatic" to land, the learning continues. "The playbook and the [play-]calling is way more advanced, it's not even funny," he said, comparing it to college.

Yet the experienced Miller and Tuman are his pro teachers.

"I'm trying to watch them and learn from them," Spaeth added.

"You like tall guys that can run and block," Arians said. "These guys are tall, but they all bend real well. They can block at the point of attack. They're good receivers. So they're nice complements.

"It's a heck of a group," added this former assistant with the Chiefs, Saints, Colts and Browns. "Maybe the best group I've ever been around. They give us great versatility."

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Old 06-01-2007, 06:11 AM   #2
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

Nice article.. glad to hear that the under used Miller is gonna be used more. He is a big weapon that has went soooo unused.. I just hope that this isnt like every year when we have a good TE the coaches always say.. well.. this year we are gonna use the TE's more.. and then they end up 20 or so receptions...
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Old 06-01-2007, 09:34 AM   #3
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

It surprised me probably as much as the next when we did not use Heath Miller like we did on are SB run and then last season hardly use him. Great to hear he and others will get used as the big men they are.
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Old 06-01-2007, 11:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

It's all about match-ups and these guys make good ones, its going to be hard for the nickel corner to outmuscle or outjump these behemoths while a linbacker's gonna be left in the dust! I'm looking forward to seeing this...
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Old 06-01-2007, 12:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

We girls always appreciate good tight ends....
Memo to all smack-talkin' trolls: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."-Abe Lincoln
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Old 06-01-2007, 12:52 PM   #6
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

"The Steelers are going to use the tight end more this year" is a hardy perennial claim that is as credible as "the check is in the mail."

Only because we have a new coaching staff do I have any hope it actually may be different this time.
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Old 06-01-2007, 01:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

Well lets hope they do use them, we have some of the biggest & talented TE's in the game, we could creat some tuff match ups if we finally use them right.
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Old 06-02-2007, 04:20 AM   #8
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

I think downsizing the playbook probably still has several plays for our talented tightends.I just hope we use them more this year.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

Great article, definetely have to use Miller more.
So who do you think will be the 3 remaining TE's at the start of the season? I'll go with Miller Tuman and Spaeth, but I'm still waiting on one of those UDFA to surprise me and take Tuman or Spaeth's job. Tuman may have also n underused last season but he'll still have to prove himself
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Old 06-02-2007, 12:21 PM   #10
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Default Re: TE's Stand Tall

I've noticed across the league that the teams with that rely heavily on a pass catching TE (which can possibly be translated to multiple TE's catching a few passes) tend to have a lack of talent in the WR corps.

Baltimore - Todd Heap
New England - Ben Watson + Daniel Graham
San Diego - Antonio Gates
Kansas City - Tony Gonzalez
Miami - Randy McMichael
Minnesota - Jermain Wiggins
They've been great for a while now, three Super Bowls' worth of great. But only this season have the New England Patriots become The Show, the must-see team of stars, pretty boys and reformed bad boys. Suddenly, the Patriots are not simply great; they're compelling, fascinating, appearing to be almighty and a touch lawless.
The Patriots didn't bother with swagger to start this NFL season; they went straight to defiant. Either you're one of them or you're about to get crushed.
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