The Pittsburgh Steelers' depth concerns at tight end have forced them to burn their injured reserve-designated for return tag on a role player.
The team announced Tuesday that backup tight end Matt Spaeth, signed to a two-year, $2 million contract in March, will draw the "IR-recall" tag while recovering from Lisfranc surgery. He will be eligible to return to game action in Week 9.
Essentially a blocking specialist, Spaeth has managed just 49 receptions in his six-year career.
It's not unusual for players to encounter setbacks from Lisfranc injuries. Even with the question marks surrounding Heath Miller's return from reconstructive knee surgery, it's easy to envision this move coming back to haunt the Steelers.
If a high-impact player goes down with an early season injury, the front office will have no choice but to end his season or allow him to occupy a valuable spot on the 53-man roster.
Other players designated for return:
» Jason Pinkston, Cleveland Browns offensive lineman: Pinkston started 22 games for the Browns since being selected by the team in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. The backup guard went down with a high-ankle sprain in the team's second preseason game.