All 32 NFL teams are wrapping up their offseason programs and that means the summer break is upon us. Now that all 32 NFL teams are breaking before the start of training camp, the team beat writers at ESPN.com have attempted to identify the surprise offseason standouts from the team that each covers.
Jeremy Fowler, who covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for ESPN, chose inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich as his surprise offseasion standout from the team and he writes:
Throughout OTAs, Matakevich assumed the starting inside linebacker job opposite Vince Williams. The free-agent signing of Jon Bostic hasn’t fazed Matakevich, who is holding him off in an attempt to replace Ryan Shazier. The former seventh-round pick doesn’t have great speed, but he has the instincts for the position and plays with an edge. He has shown that this offseason.
Fowler’s choice of Matakevich is certainly understandable and especially when you consider that veteran inside linebacker Jon Bostic, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent in March, was expected to receive a lot of the first-team reps during the offseason practices.
On the surface, however, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that Matakevich has “held off” Bostic during the team’s offseason practices. After all, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert sang the praises of the team’s former seventh-round draft pick out of Temple all spring and even after Bostic was signed. Additionally, Matakevich would have been the starter last season after Ryan Shazier went down injured had he not suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the year that essentially limited him to only playing on special teams.
My theory on Matakevich this offseason is that he is viewed as the incumbent and that Bostic must take the starting job away from him between now and the start of the regular season. With Bostic being new and likely still trying to learn the defense inside and out, it explains why he is likely entering the summer break period behind Matakevich. Should Bostic ultimately be unable to overtake Matakevich by the time the regular season gets underway, then perhaps one has to wonder why the former second-round draft pick was even signed in the first place.
If Fowler had have been forced to choose an offensive player as well as part of this exercise, which player should he have chosen as the Steelers surprise offseason standout?