It’s certainly fair to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are internally bigger fans of Tyler Matakevich than most fans are. The concern from the fanbase, which to be fair, isn’t entirely wrong, of Matakevich starting or playing extended reps if he winds up as Jon Bostic’s backup Week One. That he’s too small, too slow, to much of an unknown to have faith in.
To hear his coach, Jerry Olsavsky, tell it, those concerns don’t exist in his circle. Speaking to reporters during minicamp, he praised what Matakevich has done in the NFL.
“Tyler’s blocked two punts in the NFL,” he said. “That’s pretty good. If you can make plays…he doesn’t have all that hardware at home because he doesn’t know the game of football. He might not be big enough, he might not line up like Lawrence and Ryan, but like you said, when you make all those plays…if you just look at the plays he’s made here, you’re like ‘Wow, this guy makes a lot of plays.’ That’s not an accident. You don’t just stumble across that. If you block a punt, you block a punt. He almost had an interception on a fake punt. You find me a guy who can do that.”
Matakevich got his 2017 season started off on the highest of notes, blocking a Cleveland Browns’ punt on the first drive of the season, recovered by Anthony Chickillo in the end zone for a touchdown. He partially deflected another late in the year and in Week 2 against Minnesota, broke up a pass on a fake punt.
The man they call “Dirty Red” has been running as the first-team Mack linebacker for all of the spring, ending minicamp with a forced fumble. It remains to be seen how things will look in training camp as Bostic continues to get more comfortable in the defense. But Matakevich remaining the starter wouldn’t be the first time in his football career he’s surprised the majority.
It’s fair to assume Matakevich has a chip on his shoulder, an overlooked 7th round pick despite an outstanding career and the constant reminder of “he can’t do it” from the fanbase. Olsavsky said he usually doesn’t need to motivate anyone in the room, each player has a different method to getting pumped up, but he sends a message loud and clear on their board everyday.
“I tell them to believe in themselves and I believe in them. If you believe in yourself, other people will know that. It’s on my board. Say it. Believe it. Do it.”
We know Matakevich believes it.
Now we’ll see if he can do it.