Thanks to a shoulder injury that he suffered last season, Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich lost out on the chance to take over for fellow inside linebacker Ryan Shazier after he was lost for the season in Week 10 due to a serious spinal injury. However, with Shazier now sidelined for all of 2018 with his injury, Matakevich believes that the starting linebacker spot alongside Vince Williams is his job to lose even though the Steelers did sign veteran inside linebacker Jon Bostic to a two-year, $4 million free agent contract this past March.
“Absolutely,” Matakevich said, according to 93.7 The Fan following the Steelers Tuesday OTA practice, the fourth of 2018, when asked if he believes the starting job is now his to lose. “I mean, you just gotta show up every day, come in ready to work and that’s it. Just get better. That’s all you really can focus on is yourself, you know what I mean?”
By the sound of things, Matakevich is still getting more than his fair share of first-team reps with four OTA practices now completed.
“Yeah, we got a rotation and everyone’s getting their reps, they make sure you get your reps. Right now I’m out there with Vinny [Vince Williams] you know, but I mean at the end of the day, we’re all getting our reps,” Matakevich said.
While it’s long been believed that Matakevich suffered his left shoulder injury in the Steelers Week 10 game against the Cincinnati Bengals shortly after replacing an injured Shazier, the Temple product revealed on Tuesday that it actually happened in the team’s Week 6 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. You can see that play below that resulted in Matakevich suffering a torn labrum, rotator cuff and bicep.
“It’s all fixed now, you know what I mean? So I got a new wing so I feel good,” Matakevich said Tuesday in regard to him having surgery not long after the 2017 season ended.
The fact that Matakevich was able to play through that injury is quite impressive but he did admit on Tuesday that it limited him when it came to playing on defense as opposed to on special teams.
“You knew on special teams you could sort of protect yourself,” Matakevich explained. “I mean, I would know who was going to block me, so I wouldn’t just give them my shoulder, you know what I mean? You turn. Whereas defense, you really can’t protect yourself out there, you know what I mean? It ended up just popping out. In the first half I was tackling guys, second half a guy just touched me, [my shoulder] came out.”
Even though Matakevich had his injured shoulder repaired several months ago, the doctors apparently left the big chip he’s been carrying around on it for several years attached.
“I’ve been counted out my whole life, you know, that’s why I got the chip on my shoulder,” Matakevich said when he was asked if he’s getting used to being counted out every offseason. “That’s why I am the way I am, you know what I mean? And I just take it day by day, enjoy every day, enjoy every day I’m out here with all these guys and I just try to get better and help this team.”
It will be interesting to see how things ultimately play out when it comes to the starting inside linebacker position alongside Williams. Will Matakevich ultimately be able to hold off Bostic throughout the remainder of the offseason? It’s doubtful, but with that said, Matakevich is going to do every thing in his power to make Bostic earn the starting job and that’s how it should be.
Last season, Matakevich only played right at 60 total defensive snaps last season on his way to registering 9 total tackles. He did, however, play extensively on special teams in 2017 and even led the team in total tackles with 14 in addition to blocking a punt.
Matakevich is now in his third season with the Steelers after being drafted by them in the seventh-round of the 2016 NFL Draft.