November 12, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end David Paulson (81) has the ball stripped by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) after a pass reception during the second quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers retained possession on the play. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end battle: Matt Spaeth or David Paulson?

One of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason moves was the return of former tight end Matt Spaeth. Spaeth was the Steelers’ 3rd-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. His early-round selection was seen as a questionable choice.

The Steelers already had a first-round tight end Heath Miller – drafted in 2005 – established as the starter. The Steelers’ second investment into a position they so rarely used seemed like a waste. Spaeth quickly earned recognition as a blocking tight end. But endearing himself as worthy of a third-round selection remained undone.

Nov 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Matt Spaeth (89) catches a touchdown pass against Minnesota Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford (33) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Spaeth returns to a team in search of a substitute tight end to cover while Miller continues to recuperate from a late-season 2012 ACL-MCL injury. Miller was a huge contributor to the Steelers offense in 2012, with 71 catches for 816 yards and eight TDs. His injury opens a hole in the Steelers offense-one that Spaeth would love to fill.

Spaeth provides a big target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. At 6-foot-7 he has shown the ability to stretch the field and fight for the ball in traffic. What Spaeth hasn’t had is the opportunity to shine in an offense that emphasizes the TE position— a design like that of Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

On the other hand, Spaeth may be back for another round as strictly a blocking tight end, as the Steelers also have second-year tight end David Paulson. Paulson was a late-round pick last season and found his way on the field after the injury to David Johnson in preseason.

Paulson took over as the starter when Miller was injured. He is similar in size to Miller at 6-4, 246 pounds and is better at catching the ball than blocking.

Paulson vs. Spaeth is one of the more important battles set to get underway July 27 when training camp kicks up at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Spaeth is hoping this time around he will get a chance to finally show he was third-round worthy.

Either way, if the Steelers could establish another weapon at tight end, the offense could be even more dangerous when “Miller Time” returns.

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Tags: David Paulson Heath Miller Matt Spaeth Pittsburgh Steelers

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