Tight end Matt Spaeth has been taking part in the Steelers offseason program since it began on April 15, but he is still getting a warm welcome every time one of his teammates see him for the first time. That was the case earlier this week when cornerback Ike Taylor was all smiles seeing Spaeth, who rejoined the Steelers this offseason as a free agent.
"It's awesome. It's a great feeling to be back," said Spaeth. "It really started to hit home when I first came in for the workouts, that I was back and I would be staying. Once you see the old stuff, the locker room, being on the field, it really sets in."
Spaeth was the Steelers third-round draft pick in 2007 out of Minnesota, seeing playing time mainly in the two-tight end set and on special teams. He signed with the Chicago Bears after the 2010 season, playing there the last two years.
The Bears released Spaeth on March 13, and the Steelers brought him back, giving them depth at tight end with Heath Miller still recovering from a knee injury.
Spaeth is taking full advantage of the offseason program, not just to stay in shape but to pick up on all of the changes in the offense under coordinator Todd Haley.
"This offseason is important for me for sure," said Spaeth. "The stuff in the classroom is going to be the biggest thing for me, learning the playbook and all of that. The conditioning and physical part you learn the ropes over time. I am not worried about that part. But the more confident you are with the playbook, the better you are going to feel in practice and the better you can play."
Spaeth said he already senses the determination the team has to get back to the playoffs this year, and thinks having a mix of veterans participating in the offseason program helps to keep that feeling strong.
"There is a sense of determination and that is why I wanted to be back here," said Spaeth. "I love it. This team is so young. It's a different team than when I was here before. It's important for me to be around these guys and show them I am here to work. I am here to put my hand in the pile and help others any way I can."
With some turnover on the roster, Spaeth said he still feels like he needs to prove himself, a feeling he thinks he will always have.
"This league is not what have you done, it's what are you going to do for me," said Spaeth. "I know that. I understand that. I am here to work and do whatever I can to help this team win."