Eve though the Pittsburgh Steelers attempted and ultimately failed to sign inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower away from the New England Patriots during free agency, team general manager Kevin Colbert recently indicated that he’s very comfortable with the overall composition of the team’s inside linebacker position group as they enter the second quarter of their annual training camp.
During a Monday afternoon appearance on 105.9 The X, Colbert was asked by Mark Madden if he thinks the team has enough depth at the inside linebacker position.
“Well, you move Vince [Williams] up and obviously we dont have Lawrence Timmons anymore, and Vince was the number one guy off the bench. Tyler Matakevich is starting to show that he can be capable of being the Vince Williams-type,” Colbert said. “He stood out in our first team run period yesterday and it’s not unusual. That kid was a highly-productive college football player so we’re hoping that he can continue to grow.”
With starting buck linebacker Vince Williams currently unable to practice since the team put the pads on for the first time this year, Matakevich has received the first-team reps alongside Ryan Shazier and by all accounts, he’s performed well. The Temple product recently talked about how valuable that work has been to him.
“It’s huge,” Matakevich said Sunday after filling in for Williams on the first-team, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “That’s just the mentality I’ve had my whole life: If you get an opportunity, you’ve got to seize the moment and make the best out of it.
“Today, I got an opportunity to go out there with the ones, and I got to show them a little something of what I can do.”
As Matakevich showed during his college career at Temple and last season as a rookie core special teams player with the Steelers, he can tackle. Additionally, now that he has a full year under his belt, he now possesses one key attribute.
“I definitely feel like I’ve got the confidence, and I think that’s everything,” Matakevich said. “You’ve got to have that confidence. You’ve got to have that will and that want to go out there and show everyone what you can do.”
While it certainly appears as though the top three inside linebacker spots for the 2017 season are set in stone, Colbert indicated Monday that he’s happy with the depth behind Shazier, Williams and Matakevich as well.
“We still get Steven Johnson back and we still have L.J. Fort, who have been behind Vince in the past,” Colbert said. “So, hopefully those guys can continue to move up and hopefully Ryan and Vince stay healthy and Tyler can be there for us when we need him.”
The Steelers will most definitely keep four inside linebackers on their initial 53-man roster this year and potential even as many as five. Barring something unforeseen at this point such as injuries or a post cut-down free agent addition, it doesn’t appear as though any other younger players such as rookie undrafted free agents Matt Galambos or Keith Kelsey will be in the mix as they’re both likely to battle the rest of training camp for a potential practice squad spot.