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: Matthew Thomas
Stock Value: Up
Evaluation Type: Minor, Moderate-Term
Reason: Quality of Reps, Number of Reps
While the Steelers came out of the 2018 NFL Draft—in spite of the fact that they attempted to trade up to draft one in the first round—without a single inside linebacker, they didn’t come out of the class entirely empty-handed. Pittsburgh was able to coax Florida State product Matthew Thomas to sign with them as a college free agent following the draft, and they appear to be intrigued by him.
Right away he was singled out as one of the undrafted free agents to keep an eye on, a player who does have some legitimate talent and perhaps was even draftable. There should be a roster battle for the fourth spot on the inside linebacker depth chart anyway, and I’m not sure there should be any favorite right now.
While L.J. Fort was the one running with Jon Bostic on the second-team defense during the spring, the reports from the beat writers indicates that the Steelers were getting long looks at Thomas on the third-team unit, which would include a number of names. He was also cited multiple times in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chats as a sleeper to watch out for.
Thomas was light in college but has put on weight since then, though I believe it was Ray Fittipaldo who said that he can still stand to put on some more pounds. He does have the capability of making plays, but he still has a lot of work to do.
His floor should be that of an effective special teams player, and that alone is enough to put him in competition for a roster spot. The Steelers may even keep five inside linebackers.
Generally, Thomas has been trending upward this spring from what we have been able to gather from a variety of reports covering the Steelers’ OTAs and minicamp. I’m sure that’s pleasant news to the many who were eying him, especially those particularly concerned with the quality of play at the inside linebacker position.