By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
Veteran tight end Matt Spaeth’s second stint with the Steelers has come to an end, as the team announced his release Thursday morning with a failed physical designation. Spaeth was a 3rd-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and played with the team from 2007-2010, before spending 2011-2012 with the Chicago Bears. Upon his release from the Bears, he returned to Pittsburgh and has been with the team again since 2013.
In his 9 seasons in the NFL, Spaeth has played in 123 games and had a total of 55 receptions for 420 yards and 10 touchdowns. While Spaeth was never the receiving threat NFL team’s look for in tight ends currently, he has always been among the best blocking tight ends the game has to offer. With the drafting of 5th-round tight end Jesse James in 2015 and the signing of the uber-athletic Ladarius Green this offseason, Spaeth’s role was going to be up in the air and their was speculation that he would be an early cap casualty after undergoing knee surgery in January.
At 32 years old, it is uncertain if Spaeth will have many calls from other teams at this point in his career.
To take his place on the roster, the Steelers signed Tulsa undrafted free agent tight end/H-Back Mandel Dixon, who spent his rookie minicamp with the Dallas Cowboys this spring. At 6’2″, 231, Dixon was one of the better blocking backs in college football last season, showing aggressiveness and physicality as a more than willing blocker. Dixon’s coach had this to say about the former fullback:
“Mandel has the size and physicality to play fullback but he also has the speed and ability to catch the ball to play out in the slot.”
With the release of Spaeth, it is likely either David Johnson or Xavier Grimble will move up the depth chart. Johnson and Dixon are very similar players serving a hybrid role so it will be interesting to see what Dixon brings to the table during the preseason.
Something to keep in mind is that the only tight end on the roster from last years playoff team is James. And with James and Green as the only locks to make the final roster, it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out, especially with the addition of Dixon this Thursday.