The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without Matt Spaeth for eight to 10 weeks due to a foot injury, the latest hit to the tight end position and one that could force the team to look for an experienced free agent.
Spaeth was carted off the field Wednesday and on Friday was diagnosed with a Lisfranc sprain, which is a dislocation of a bone in the middle of the foot, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That leaves Pittsburgh with David Paulson, a seventh-round pick from a year ago, and a cast of unproven backups.
The Steelers now have as many injured tight ends as healthy ones. Heath Miller, the team leader in receptions last season, is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with a knee injury and there's no timetable for his return. David Johnson is also on PUP with a knee injury. Now, the Steelers won't have Spaeth until the fifth game of the regular season, which is the current best-case scenario.
Paulson is a pass-catching tight end with long arms and dependable hands, which makes him a strong candidate to fill in for Miller. What the Steelers lose in Spaeth is a strong run-blocking tight end. The other tight ends on the roster are Jamie McCoy, who has played in one NFL game (last year with Steelers); Peter Tuitupou, an undrafted rookie out of San Jose State; and John Rabe, an undrafted rookie from Minnesota.
Injuries have been hitting the Steelers hard this training camp. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress tore his rotator cuff on Thursday, a shoulder injury that could end his season and possibly his career. Starting cornerback Cortez Allen had minor knee surgery last Friday that could sideline him for all of the preseason. Three other cornerbacks are banged up -- Curtis Brown (ankle), Terry Hawthorne (knee) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (undisclosed) -- and likely won't play in Saturday's preseason opener.
While the Steelers always want to get out of games healthy, they really can't afford to lose another tight end or cornerback Saturday night against the New York Giants.