The Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 football in shorts season officially got underway on Friday with the start team’s annual rookie minicamp and while the seven draft picks are sure to draw most of the attention throughout the weekend, a few of the 13 undrafted free agents now under contract will certainly have a lot of eyes on them as well with one them being former Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas.
For several obvious reasons, Thomas figures to have an above average chance at making the Steelers 53-man roster this year. For starters, he is a very athletic player in addition to being productive during his college career. Thomas ultimately going undrafted is most likely related to him missing several games during his first three years at Florida State due to injuries and suspensions and I detailed all of that in a post about him a few weeks ago. After the Steelers first rookie minicamp practice on Friday, Thomas who measured in at this year’s scouting combine at 6026, 232-pounds, discussed what he told teams while in Indianapolis for the annual Underwear Olympics about the trials and tribulations he endured during his time at Florida State.
“I just kept it real with them,” Thomas said on Friday, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I laid out everything I had been through. I didn’t hold anything back. I was an open book. I left everything on the table and let them make the decision.”
After talking to numerous teams while at the combine, Thomas, who admitted on Friday that he was surprised he ultimately went undrafted, registered an amazing pSPARQ score of 148.6 thanks primarily to him running his 40-yard-dash in 4.58-seconds and logging vertical and broad jumps of 41.5-inches and 10’11”, respectively. Additionally, he posted a short shuttle time of 4.28-seconds and a three-cone time of 6.85-seconds.
During the pre-draft process Thomas must have done enough to warrant more discussions with the Steelers as he was ultimately brought to Pittsburgh for a visit last month.
Thomas led the FSU defense in tackles his junior and senior seasons, his only two as a starter. In addition to those 162 total tackles during those two seasons, Thomas recorded an interception, a forced fumble and four passes defensed.
According to Fittipaldo’s Friday story on Thomas, the linebacker is likely going to be asked to improve his strength and probably increase his weight some now that he’s in the NFL. He also went on to tell Fittipaldo that he feels like the Steelers really seem to have high hopes for him moving forward.
“They feel like they ran up on a steal or whatever,” Thomas said. “I just have to put it on tape and let it be known. This is a business where production matters. I don’t have any problem being productive.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the Steelers didn’t draft an inside linebacker this year with starter Ryan Shazier out for the 2018 season due to a serious spinal injury he suffered last year. The team, however, did sign veteran inside linebacker Jon Bostic during the early portion of free agency and he’s expected to take over at Shazier’s spot in 2018 and likely play alongside Vince Williams.
Behind Bostic and Williams, however, sits Tyler Matakevich on the depth chart and after him it’s anybody’s guess as to how things will ultimately shake out come September. In short, and as previously stated, Thomas seemingly has a legitimate shot at making the Steelers final 53-man roster in 2018 as either the No. 4, or potentially No. 5 inside linebacker. Obviously, none of that is guaranteed to happen and Thomas is seemingly well-aware of that with one full rookie mincamp practice now under his belt.
“I just needed an opportunity,” Thomas said Friday per Fittipaldo. “I’m here now, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”