Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Tyler Matakevich
Stock Value: Up
The first day of OTAs brought some good news for at least one Steelers player, that being third-year inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who appears to be being given a legitimate opportunity to compete for the vacant mack linebacker position with Ryan Shazier watching from the sidelines.
The 2016 seventh-round pick missed his window of opportunity last season to showcase what he had to offer because he suffered a shoulder injury in the same game in which Shazer was injured. While he continued to play on special teams, the injury prevented him from playing on defense, and required surgery in the offseason to properly repair.
The Steelers didn’t do much to address the hole that Shazier’s injury left behind this offseason, only signing journeyman Jon Bostic to a two-year, $4 million contract. While I like Bostic and believe that he is capable of playing quite well for the team this year, he is not being guaranteed a starting opportunity, as if his salary were not already a clear indication of that.
As we have relayed, the reports out of OTAs on Tuesday were that it was Matakevich and not Bostic who got the first opportunity to line up next to Vince Williams with the first-team defense. This doesn’t mean he is being looked at as the favorite for the job, but it does at least indicate that he should be in the running.
Throughout the pre-draft process, and after the draft, the Steelers’ decision-makers have rarely left out the opportunity when discussing the inside linebacker position to point out that Matakevich is on the roster and that he didn’t get the opportunity to show what he could do last season.
He is being given that opportunity now, as will Bostic, of course, though only one of them will be able to start. We are a long way away from playing a meaningful game, so both of them will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves on the field and within the Steelers’ defense with how they want to make use of the position. Frankly, if neither of them look up to the task they could try to turn to outside help.