2018 Training Camp Battles: Starting ILB

It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first breaths of the 2018 NFL season.

Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and restructures to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.

And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Up for Grabs: Starting Job

In the Mix: Tyler Matakevich, Jon Bostic

This is perhaps the only true position battle that we will see in training camp in which a starting job is legitimately open for competition. But that tends to be the nature of the beast when you are trying to replace a talent like Ryan Shazier’s without the luxury of actually having the opportunity to plan for such a contingency.

The Steelers seemed to fully intend to come out of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with one of the top four inside linebackers on the board—Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evan—but when all four of them slipped by, they scrapped the plan entirely and bulked up at the back end instead with Edmunds’ older brother, safety Terrell Edmunds.

That decision evidently suggested that they were at least comfortable with the possibility of entering training camp with free agent addition Jon Bostic and third-year special teamer Tyler Matakevich competing to take over Shazier’s job for the 2018 season.

They did appear to learn that Sean Spence was not a satisfactory solution to that problem, at least. Now we will see how much they think of Bostic, who has been a journeyman and borderline starter throughout his career despite having been drafted in the second round once upon a time.

The Steelers had Matakevich working with the first-team defense throughout the spring, Bostic running with the second-team defense. We will surely see both linebackers get their time, both in training camp and in the preseason, not just playing with the starters but also calling out the signals for them.

While the majority of Steeler Nation is crossing its collective fingers hoping that they give Bostic the job, it seems at least based on what we can gather up to this point that they are content to let the results on the field make that decision for them.

And let’s remember, they can always make a change during the season if the play of one becomes an issue. I don’t think they’ll be too hesitant to pull the trigger and play both of them if it should prove necessary.

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