With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: ILB Tyler Matakevich
Stock Value: Up
I don’t think there should be much debate about the general details of this one, although the extent to which it is true will likely trigger some disagreement. The value of second-year inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich is clearly up since his rookie season, and since free agency and the draft.
Originally a seventh-round draft pick, it was far from obvious that the Temple product would even make the 53-man roster, but he not only did so, he dressed for every game and led the Steelers in special-teams tackles with 12. He also made five tackles on defense in 19 snaps of play during an injury-riddled contest.
He already likely earned himself a decent little tenure by becoming a fixture on special-teams—I would wager that it’s pretty rare for a player who is not in a contract year to fail to make the roster a year after leading the team in special-teams tackles—but the way the offseason has unfolded also opens the door for greater possibilities.
The Steelers, of course, lost starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons during free agency, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Dolphins. They attempted to replace him in free agency, but when they failed to land a Pro-Bowl talent, they seemed more than content to ride along with Vince Williams.
Now, Williams was already the top backup inside linebacker, and made a couple of starts last season. That means that the top backup spot is now vacated, and Matakevich at this point would seem as likely as anybody to be able to claim it, with his primary competition being L.J. Fort and Steven Johnson, both of whom are largely journeyman special-teamers.
The second-year linebacker talked earlier this offseason about the fact that he spent time so far working on his hip flexibility and lateral movement in order to help strengthen what even recognizes as a liability in his game. He is not the fastest or most agile player, but he has instincts.
Matakevich will be an interesting player to follow during training camp and the preseason. He still certainly have a bigger magnifying glass on him this year compared to his rookie season as an under-the-radar late-round draft pick.