When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews during the offseason, it was perceived by many fans of the team as a fairly insignificant and unexciting free agent addition. More than anything, most were just excited that Mathews’ signing meant that defensive lineman Cam Thomas wasn’t going to be brought back for another season. With three preseason games now in the books, Mathews’ play so far on the football field has shown that he could wind up being a very significant free agent addition to this year’s team.
During his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he’s happy with what he’s seen so far out of Mathews, who played previously with the San Diego Chargers.
“Yes, I am,” Tomlin replied.
When pressed further to talk about what it was that attracted him to Mathews during the offseason, Tomlin was straight and to the point in his reply.
“He’s a high-motor, high energy guy,” said Tomlin of Mathews. “He’s a blue-collar worker, he doesn’t care what you ask him to do, he’s willing and able, and all of those are good attributes in terms of the job description of being a versatile backup d-lineman for us.”
This past week, Mathews was asked in the Steelers locker room why he chose to sign with the team during the offseason even though he knew the team already had starters entrenched ahead of him on their defensive line.
“To fill a role and to win a seventh championship. That was the main goal,” Mathews said.
Should the ankle injury that starting defensive end Cameron Heyward suffered last Friday night wind up preventing him from either playing in the regular season opener, or limit his playing time in some capacity, Mathews would likely be the one asked to absorb some extra playing time. So far during the preseason, Mathews has registered 3 total tackles to go along with several quarterback pressures, one of which resulted in an interception for a touchdown.
Last season as a reserve and spot-starter player with the Chargers, Mathews played 510 total snaps and ended the season with 22 total tackles and one sack, which just so happened to come in the Week 5 Monday night game against the Steelers. While the Steelers obviously hope that Mathews doesn’t have to wind up playing 500 snaps in his first season with them, it’s obvious that Tomlin currently has faith in his abilities should he ultimately wind having to see the field that much.
Mathews originally entered the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts after being selected by them in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Cincinnati. He spent the last two seasons with the Chargers and signed a one-year, $760,000 contract with the Steelers this past March.