When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed inside linebacker Jon Bostic to a two-year, $4 million free agent contract this past March it was widely believed at the time that he would be the team’s new starter alongside Vince Williams. While that’s likely to be the case come Week 1 of the 2018 regular season, if not sooner, Bostic, who played last season for the Indianapolis Colts, found himself as a backup behind third-year inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich to start the team’s first week of OTA practices. It goes without saying that Bostic believes that sooner rather than later he’ll overtake Matakevich.
“I’m a three-down backer; it’s tough to find those nowadays,” Bostic said Tuesday after his first OTA practice with the Steelers, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m a backer that can play either or spot, I can play middle, I can play Will, it really doesn’t matter to me. I’ve done that throughout my career. I’m a bigger guy who can run. And I can cover as well. A lot of people don’t know that.”
Last year with the Colts, Bostic, who was originally drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida, was indeed an every-down linebacker as he played all but five defensive snaps in the first 13 games of the season. A knee injury suffered midway through the Colts’ 14th game, however, resulted in Bostic not playing another down the final two weeks of the season. Even though his season was cut short, Bostic still managed to register a career-best 97 total tackles.
Assuming Bostic ultimately overtakes Matakevich on the depth chart like many expect he will, it will still be interesting to see if he’s used as heavily as he was last year by the Colts. Odds are probably good that he will be as Williams is likely to be the linebacker pulled off the field on obvious passing downs in lieu of an extra defensive back.
The Steelers are now the fifth NFL team that Bostic has played for in his short career as he’s also had stints with the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions in between playing for the Bears and Colts. According to Bostic, the Steelers defense is a lot like the one he called last season in Indianapolis.
“I’m excited to get on field, definitely getting some rust off, learning a new playbook,” Bostic said Tuesday, per Dulac. “But learning has never been a problem for me. It’s just a matter of getting reps and learning the guys around me. The scheme is almost exactly like we used in Indy.”
Since being signed by the Steelers, Bostic’s strong ability to communicate on defense has been discussed quite frequently as has his past abilities to be more than just a run-stopper. While Bostic certainly believes he can function in any kind of defense as a pass-defending linebacker, Pro Football Focus has him down as allowing 41 receptions for 412 yards and 3 touchdown on 51 total targets last season with the Colts.
With those stats above notated, it’s worth pointing out that PFF has Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, the player Bostic will likely be replacing in 2018, down as allowing 43 receptions for 453 yards and a touchdown on 59 total targets last season. Shazier, however, did register three interceptions last season. Bostic, by the way, has just one career interception and it came way back during his rookie 2013 season with the Bears.
“Whenever my number is called I’ll be ready,” Bostic said this past week.
The Steelers are likely to call Bostic’s number quite frequently during the 2018 season and if he indeed shows that he can be a quality three-down linebacker, it will certainly ease the team’s burden of losing Shazier in addition to failing to draft another inside linebacker several weekends ago.