When it comes to Pittsburgh Steelers second-year inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich, one would not exactly regard him as a social media sensation. Having joined Twitter more than six years ago, while he does have over 18,000 followers, he is not an avid Tweeter, with 5634 Tweets as of this writing. Compare that to some of your favorite follows to realize the discrepancy.
The point is of course that Matakevich is not the sort of person who is just going to jump onto Twitter every day and shout his thoughts into the digital ether simply because he can. So when he does choose to open up and speak his mind, there is a higher probability than average that it is going to express a significant sentiment.
And yesterday, he Tweeted out some self-motivation. “People continue to doubt me”, he writes. “I’m just gunna [sic] continue to prove them wrong!!”.
People continue to doubt me, I’m just gunna continue to prove them wrong!!
— Tyler Matakevich (@44_Matakevich) June 22, 2017
I strongly suspect that, as it the case in particular for lower-rostered players, Matakevich has done a fair bit of reading about himself from a bevy of untrained analysts all across the internet—perhaps myself included. And there has been a clear story arc to that: great heart, runs to the ball. Too slow and unathletic at the NFL level.
Despite being a phenomenally productive player at Temple University, and winning both the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award, becoming the seventh player in college football history to register 100 or more tackles in four seasons, Matakevich still fell all the way to the seventh round.
Why? As his NFL.com draft profile reminds, he is “short on baseline physical traits”, and his “play speed is average”. A source was quoted on the page as describing him as “not big, not fast, not strong”, noting that it’s “hard to make it as an NFL linebacker without those elements”.
Still, the 6’0” inside linebacker was able to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster during his rookie season and to remain there over the course of the entire season, even beating out competition in order to remain there. The Steelers spent much of the first half of the season with six inside linebackers on the roster in part because they wanted to retain him.
He played in all 16 games on special teams and led the team with 12 tackles in that phase of the game. He also recorded something like seven or eight tackles in 16 snaps against the Dolphins when he was called upon due to multiple injuries to play.
This season, his roster spot seems relatively secure, but he may be under the microscope of an even more critical eye because more is expected out of him. Currently, Matakevich is in a competition to become the Steelers’ primary reserve inside linebacker.
That is a position that has been rather important in recent years, and even more so this year with iron man Lawrence Timmons no longer here. Chances are, the third inside linebacker is going to have to play. And many are questioning whether or not Matakevich’s average athletic traits will be enough to get the job done, including many beat writers who have commented on him trailing in coverage this spring.