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: ILB Tyler Matakevich
Stock Value: Up
I’m not sure there are too many people on the Steelers’ roster right now that benefitted more from their draft class than third-year inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich. There’s a good chance that any player taken at his position in the first few rounds of the draft would have been in direct competition with him for the backup inside linebacker position.
Of course the team came out of the entire draft without a single linebacker, inside or outside, so the depth chart remains the same as last year, tentatively, sans Ryan Shazier being swapped out for free agent addition Jon Bostic.
While that might not be great news for the team as a whole, it’s a big boost for Matakevich personally, who now finds himself playing behind two linebackers who do not have entrenched holds on their jobs. Bostic was a 14-game starter last year, but has an injury history and has been on several different teams. Vince Williams has just a year of starting experience and is in the last year of his contract.
There’s a fairly good chance that Matakevich is going to be on the field on defense at some point this year, even potentially starting a game or two. His roster spot might be secure because of what he brings on special teams (including two blocked punts and a pass defensed on a fake punt last year), but he obviously has higher ambitions.
It’s not completely inconceivable that he could still be in the running to compete for one of the two starting linebacker positions in 2018 if he has a great preseason. Bostic didn’t come in last season as a starter last year, and Pittsburgh didn’t exactly give him starter money either. Williams is starting only because the team failed to upgrade or retain the previous starter there.
Oh, and he’s healthy now. He lost a golden opportunity to get a chance to play last year because of a shoulder injury. He’ll be hungry to prove that he can play this year. In my evaluation, he struggled during the preseason in 2017. We’ll see how he looks this time around.