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Old 02-23-2010, 06:15 AM   #1
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Default Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends
by cgolden on Jan 14, 2010 3:17 PM EST
http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com...2010-offseason

Continuing a year BTSC tradition, we're going to take a crack at breaking down the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers roster over the month or two. The objective is to take a look back at the most recent play by position, the ages and contract status of the relevant players at that position, and then make some reasonable evaluations of what the Steelers front office may do moving forward in the immediate and intermediate future. Let's start it out with a look at the tight position:

Heath Miller

Age and 2009 Stats: 27 years old (10/22/82) - 76 receptions, 789 yards (10.4 avg) and six touchdowns

Contract Status: Signed through 2014

2009 Analysis: For several years one of the biggest question marks has been why Miller wasn't a bigger part of the offense but in 2009 he was finally able to show how effective he could as a featured receiver. He not only set career highs in both yards and receptions but he also led the entire league (both wide receivers and tight ends) with a 78% catch rate (minimum 50 targets for WR's and 25 targets for TE's). Miller and Ben Roethlisberger have developed quite a bit of chemistry over the past several years and it really seems like Ben knows exactly where his big tight end will be once the pocket breaks down.

2010 Outlook: Miller is entering the prime of his career and there's no reason to expect a dropoff in his production anytime soon. His well rounded abilities mean that he rarely has to come off the field, only four players on the offensive side of the ball took more snaps than him, and he can be an asset in the running game as well as the passing game. If there's one thing that could be improved upon in 2010, it's how Miller is used in the passing game though. It seemed like too often he would start a play as a blocker and then slide off his man once Ben started scrambling. While this led to quite a few completed passes, most of his passes were for relatively short yardage (lowest yards per catch of his career). In total 71% of his completions were thrown at ten yards or less and he actually caught twice as many passes behind the line of scrimmage (14) than he caught at eleven yards or more (7).

Star-divide

Matt Spaeth

Age and 2009 Stats: 26 years old (11/24/83) - five receptions for 25 yards (5.0 avg) and one touchdown

Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent

2009 Analysis: Spaeth, even by his standards, had a disapointing season in 2009 and Miller's career year didn't help him much either. With Miller clearly the better receiving tight end, Spaeth's role has become that of a blocking tight end and he's clearly struggling with the assignment. His height and lack of physicality have prohibited him from becoming even an average blocker but at eventually he'll have to improve at the point of attack if he wants to remain on this roster.

2010 Outlook: Spaeth is certainly entering, or might already be at, a make or break point in his career. Coming out of college he was billed as a consistent blocker and reciever but through three seasons he's failed to establish himself in either category. Bruce Arians likes carrying, and using, three tight ends so it's probably to early to say his spot on the roster is in jeopardy but Spaeth will have improve, especially as a blocker, this off season.

David Johnson

Age and 2009 Stats: 22 years old (8/26/87) - two receptions for nine yards (4.5 avg)

Contract Status: Signed through 2011

2009 Analysis: Johnson assumed McHugh's H-back role when he went down with an injury before the season and performed rather well for a seventh round rookie. He was a virtual non factor in the passing game but his in-line blocking seemingly improved every game. His ability to line up in the backfield, as well as tight end, allowed Johnson to receive quite a bit of playing time for a rookie. Overall it was a very productive, workmanlike season for the young tight end/full back.

2010 Outlook: It'll be interesting to see what 2010 holds for Johnson. Some think he could ascend to the second tight spot while others wonder if his role will actually shrink when McHugh returns from injury. Given his age and extremely low cap number, it's a safe bet to say that he'll be on the squad next year and his role will probably be determined by the play of those around him. While he doesn't offer much from a passing game perspective, he might just be the best blocking tight end on the roster.

Sean McHugh

Age and 2009 Stats: 27 years old (5/27/82) - No stats, placed on IR before the season started

Contract Status: Signed through 2011

2009 Analysis: McHugh's season ended in early September with a knee injury.

2010 Outlook: Just like with Johnson, McHugh could be in for an interesting 2010 considering that his role in this offense has been filled by a player who is younger and cheaper. That's normally a lethal combination but McHugh is a very useable pawn in an offensive scheme that really values versatility.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Steelers have the advantage of having one of the most complete tight ends in the league and a decent amount of depth behind him. Other than the fact that Heath Miller will start, and of course play an important role in every game that he's healthy, this position could go many different ways. They could in theory keep all four guys considering Johnson and McHugh are versatile enough to play both tight end and full back. Speath is the only true tight end behind Miller but he's also the worst blocker, which could put his job in jeopardy. One of the variables the staff will have to consider though is if Johnson or McHugh could be a receiving threat if anything were to happen to Miller during the season. It's also possible that Johnson and McHugh are fighting for one spot and they'll compete as such throughout training camp and the preseason.

About that only scenario that seems unlikely is adding another body to the mix, either through free agency or the draft, at least not one of any significance. I guess a late round pick on a tight who might eventually become Miller's primary backup wouldn't be a total shocker but considering all the other holes on this team, you'd have to that adding a developmental tight end is pretty low on the priority list.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

We could be worse off...But that depth he talks about might not be quite impressive if anything ever happened to Heath.
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Old 02-23-2010, 11:43 AM   #3
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

I think it's be an intereting move to find a small college tackle who can catch a little to see if they can make the next Mark Breuner. I'd settle for Tuman though.
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Old 02-23-2010, 11:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

Hmm ... interesting.

I think it's pretty clear Spaeth is dogshit, but I wonder what we do with Johnson and McHugh since they're basically the same player. Early in the season, I was expecting Johnson to maybe catch a few passes and define himself as a solid all-around TE, but it looks like he and McHugh are both blocking-only. I wonder if the way this plays out is they have McHugh and Johnson duke it out for the H-back spot and release the loser of that battle, and draft a rookie in the low rounds who they hope can be more of a pass catcher.
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

Quote:
Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post
2009 Analysis: Spaeth, even by his standards............
He has "standards"? The guy's been nearly invisible the past 3 years! He was supposed to be one of our top red-zone weapons, something that never transpired. I say Johnson gets the backup role and we draft a young TE in the late rounds.
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:22 PM   #6
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

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Hmm ... interesting.

I think it's pretty clear Spaeth is dogshit, but I wonder what we do with Johnson and McHugh since they're basically the same player. Early in the season, I was expecting Johnson to maybe catch a few passes and define himself as a solid all-around TE, but it looks like he and McHugh are both blocking-only. I wonder if the way this plays out is they have McHugh and Johnson duke it out for the H-back spot and release the loser of that battle, and draft a rookie in the low rounds who they hope can be more of a pass catcher.
I'm perfectly happy with having just one pass catching tight end. If we didn't have three quality wide receivers and one great starting tight end i'd worry.

With the offensive weapons we have Spaeth doesn't deserve a roster spot really. Our tight ends are expected to block, and Spaeth is the worst at that. I don't even want to waste a draft pick on that spot with Miller, Johnson and McHugh already on the roster. Bye Spaeth.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:01 PM   #7
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

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He has "standards"? The guy's been nearly invisible the past 3 years! He was supposed to be one of our top red-zone weapons, something that never transpired. I say Johnson gets the backup role and we draft a young TE in the late rounds.
the problem is bruce arians whose offense doesnt need 1 true fullback, but needs 3-4 tight ends who can pretend to be fullbacks.

the sad thing is not only is heath our best pass catcher, he would also be our best HB/FB.

its not spaeths fault. in his rookie year, his first reception in his first game was a TD.
in his 2nd game he had 2 receptions (1 for a td). then he wasnt used again until week 7 where, once again, he had 1 reception for 1 td.

3 of his first 4 receptions were for td's. he had 1 more reception for the rest of the year.

even last year, his first reception of the season in week 2 was a td against the bears (he only had a grand total of 5 receptions).

the problem is arians who prefers sacks, interceptions, and easilly predictable and stuffed runs up the middle in the redzone. since spaeth works, he will never use that again, because the defenses might know what is coming (like a TD)

spaeth could go to the bengals and easilly have 10 td's and open up that entire offense.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

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the problem is bruce arians whose offense doesnt need 1 true fullback, but needs 3-4 tight ends who can pretend to be fullbacks.

the sad thing is not only is heath our best pass catcher, he would also be our best HB/FB.

its not spaeths fault. in his rookie year, his first reception in his first game was a TD.
in his 2nd game he had 2 receptions (1 for a td). then he wasnt used again until week 7 where, once again, he had 1 reception for 1 td.

3 of his first 4 receptions were for td's. he had 1 more reception for the rest of the year.

even last year, his first reception of the season in week 2 was a td against the bears (he only had a grand total of 5 receptions).

the problem is arians who prefers sacks, interceptions, and easilly predictable and stuffed runs up the middle in the redzone. since spaeth works, he will never use that again, because the defenses might know what is coming (like a TD)

spaeth could go to the bengals and easilly have 10 td's and open up that entire offense.
I hope there's some sarcasm about Spaeth in there. Even when he did get on the field more, he looked pretty marginal as a pass catcher.

There were a couple of games in 2008 where Miller was banged up and Spaeth caught 5 or 6 passes in each of them, and he looked as awkward and tentative as I've ever seen an NFL receiver act. He would catch the ball while facing back toward the quarterback ... and he would stay that way. His "run after the catch" consisted of backpedaling a couple of steps toward the opponent's end zone, with his back to the defense, until someone wrapped him up. Just awkward and lumbering, without the upside of being a good blocker. I don't see much of a future for him, and we can certainly do better.

Definitely agree with the comments about our scheme, though. Arians really seems like he cannot decide what to do at the TE/FB position, and except for Miller -- who's so good that it's pretty much impossible to screw up with him -- he's making a mess out of both positions. I wish he would work on that.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:50 PM   #9
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

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I hope there's some sarcasm about Spaeth in there. .
no... not really.

i can only remember him dropping about 3 passes in his 3 year career. ad that to his 27 receptions and that says he was targeted about 10X/yr. there are some here who would automatically declare that a bust regardless if the player had 5 td's or 5 td drops.

damned if you do, damned if you dont. the problem is there were no unpredictable plays that arians drew up where spaeth was a quick #1 option in the redzone other than maybe his 1st 2 catches in his 1st 2 games, which were both touchdowns.

unfortunately those plays were quickly ripped out of the playbook.
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Old 02-24-2010, 01:58 AM   #10
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Tight Ends

I think Spaeth has a bad reputation... we it's his contract year we will see if he is used at all in the offense
He went to some receivers camp with fitzgerald and other awesome receivers, I think he learned some stuff about offense after that and we never got to see it this year.
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