The Pittsburgh Steelers have a bit of NFL royalty on their roster that nobody has been talking about. Well…offspring of NFL royalty, anyway. In an unheralded move, the team signed offensive lineman Mike Matthews to a futures contract after their 2016 season came to an end.
Matthews is for good reason a well-respected name in football, at least when attached to the appropriate bloodline. His father, Bruce Matthews is in the Hall of Fame as an offensive lineman. His brother, Jake Matthews, was a recent selection in the first round, also playing along the offensive line. He, too, is hoping to make it in the league as a lineman.
I didn’t even have to mention the rest of his bloodline, stemming from Bruce’s brother, Clay Matthews, Sr. A quality player in his own right, Clay had a son in Clay Matthews, Jr. who played from 1978 to 1996 and made the Pro Bowl four times. And his son, Clay Matthews III, is a six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker.
Then there’s Clay III’s brother, Casey Matthews. And there’s Mike’s other brother, Kevin Matthews, who spent a few years in the league as well, appearing in 17 games over four seasons with three starts—yet another offensive lineman. Not only is football in his DNA, but also specifically offensive line play.
With a father and two brothers all playing along the line, and having at least some modicum of success—including a Hall of Fame career among them—one would expect that Mike Matthews has a leg up. But he knows better than to put much stock in his family legacy when it comes to building one of his own. Name recognition is one thing, but being a solid football player is another.
Originally signed by the Browns lay May as an undrafted free agent, he was waved in early September as he missed the final roster cut. He was not signed to their practice squad, nor to the practice squad of any other team, but the Steelers signed him soon after their season ended.
It may have helped that his father, Bruce, is good friends with Mike Munchak, the Steelers’ offensive line coach and a fellow member of the offensive line wing of the Hall of Fame. Max Bultman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was told by Bruce that “Munch is one of my closest, if not my closest friend”.
For his part, Munchak did say during minicamp according to Bultman that he saw qualities in Mike that he also so in his older brother, Kevin, and the Hall of Famer, dad Bruce. He complimented the young Matthews’ hip movement.
The stark reality is that he doesn’t have all that great of a chance of making the Steelers’ roster this year. They are already at least eight deep, with an additional tackle being more likely than another interior player. But he should be in play for the practice squad. If not with Pittsburgh, then perhaps somewhere else.