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: Jon Bostic
Stock Value: Even
Evaluation Type: Minor, Short-Term
Reason: Comfort Level, Quality of Reps
This is now our third installment for Jon Bostic in the stock watch series, who has had one of the more interesting rides so far. When the Steelers failed to come away from the 2018 NFL Draft with a player that they felt could be a starter at inside linebacker, they passed on the position altogether, quickly leading to the assumption that Bostic was the shoe-in starter.
Then Tyler Matakevich lined up with the first-team defense to start OTAs. And then it kept going. That was not what was expected, and lent credence to the idea that the Steelers are going to have a legitimate competition between Matakevich and Bostic for the starting job.
Several weeks on, the free agent went through the entire sequence of OTAs and minicamp working with the second-team unit behind the third-year linebacker and Vince Williams. But he made the necessary progress working with L.J. Fort on the second-team line in terms of gaining comfort in the defense.
So while he did not get the opportunity during the spring, he still put the work in, and he knows that he will get his chance to prove himself later on this summer. Hence, as we head into the long break before training camp, we see his stock levelling off to a more neutral position.
I frankly am very interested to see how the Steelers intend to let this play out. How will they distribute reps between Bostic and Matakevich during training camp, and especially the preseason? It likely will be the preseason more than anything that most informs their decision as to whom they intend to start.
Both players have received praise for their work this spring, from both their teammates and their coaches, so that’s at least a good place to start. This is in contrast to last season for Matakevich, where we read of him struggling in coverage and even showing frustration. Then he went on to have an ugly preseason in which he took first-team snaps while Ryan Shazier was sidelined.
When all is said and done, competition should only make the team better off—provided that the best man actually wins in the end.