There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as well as individually, in succeeding articles.
The Steelers entered the draft process this past year with seven draft picks, including their natural draft picks sans their fifth, which they gave up in a trade for Brandon Boykin, plus an extra seventh-round pick in exchange for Brad Wing.
In contrast to recent history, the Steelers received significant playing time on defense from three rookies, while also getting some minor contributions from some late-round picks to boot. In terms of rookie seasons, it was the most successful class in recent memory.
Player: Tyler Matakevich
Draft Status: 7th round (246th overall)
It may not look like much, but rookie seventh-round inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich actually did have a productive season. He may have only recorded 19 snaps on defense against the Dolphins, during which he recorded eight tackles, but he actually played 269 snaps on special teams, adding another 12 tackles to his season total.
The Steelers were already without Ryan Shazier against the Dolphins, resulting in Vince Williams starting in his place. Williams suffered an injury covering a punt, on which Matakevich made the tackle, and left the game. Matakevich replaced him and recorded the first and last tackle of the subsequent five-play drive, including a short pass to the running back for five yards on third and six.
On the Dolphins’ following drive, Matakevich made the first six tackles of the drive, which would seem to strengthen the argument that he has a nose for the football and is able to rack up the tackles, 40-yard dash time be damned.
Mostly, however, his work of course came on special teams, and as his snaps logged in that regard would indicate, he made himself indispensable. Despite the fact that he didn’t cover special teams in college, it’s a role he embraced in Pittsburgh and it resulted in him becoming a fixture. I believe he even led the team in special teams tackles.
With Williams perhaps entering the starting lineup, Matakevich has an opportunity in front of him to present himself as the third inside linebacker to come into the game should anybody get injured. The team has also used extra linebackers in their goal line package, which he would seem to be well-suited for.