He entered the season as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top reserve at inside linebackers for both positions, but on Sunday, second-year Tyler ‘Matter Cabbage’ Matakevich did not see a single snap on defense, replaced instead by recent signing Sean Spence, with L.J. Fort mixed in.
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. Doesn’t mean it will change, but the point is that Matakevich is not necessarily locked into a backup role. The fact of his not seeing the field against the Patriots is one that has a reasonable explanation that could still involve him even starting the next game.
Keeping in mind the fact that he is still a young player, Matakevich is also coming back from a shoulder injury. More to the point, he spent the week limited in practice, and this was during a week in particular in which there were a lot of moving parts.
The Steelers, by all accounts, did a number of things that they ordinarily do not in practice this past week in preparation for facing the Patriots, and the evidence of that was lain bare in the game itself. It’s pretty hard for a player with limited playing experience to be installed into a new and evolving defensive scheme when he is only participating in practice on a limited basis.
Assuming that he is back to a full go in practice this week, however, it would not surprise me if we see him running with the first-team defense. I am not making a commentary on whether or not I think this is what should happen, mind you, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged during a recent press conference that the effort to replace Ryan Shazier in the starting lineup is going to be one of trial and error, and likely will never be a one-man job.
At this point, they are playing the game and then re-evaluating on a weekly basis, and frankly, I don’t think that Spence’s results to date have been a rousing success that demands he plays from the beginning of the game to the end.
The Steelers do not have anybody that can replace Ryan Shazier. Nobody in the league has a backup player who can replace somebody like Ryan Shazier. He is probably going to make the Pro Bowl in spite of the fact that he will have missed a good portion of the season.
But Matakevich will likely be a piece of the puzzle that they try to assemble this week as they prepare for a Christmas trip to Texas to play Houston. We just saw them start rookie Cameron Sutton, so seeing Matakevich in the starting lineup would not exactly be a shock to the system.