2018 Training Camp Questions: How Will ILB Battle Be Handled In Preseason Games?

The offseason is over. Football is back. The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College and training camp is underway. As we are every year, we will be right there providing live feedback and updates, and will be supplementing ourselves throughout the day, every day.

The Steelers are coming off a frustrating season to say the least, posting a 13-3 record with a first-round bye only to be dumped in the Divisional Round by a team that beat them twice, even though they hadn’t even been to the playoffs in a decade.

They’ve added the ingredients that they think they need to fix what ails them, adding new players and coaches, while getting rid of others. Now is when they start mixing up those ingredients and trying to create something powerful.

We still have a lot of questions about this team, and we’ll be monitoring the practices and preseason games looking for answers. As we always do.

Question: How will the Steelers handle the inside linebacker competition during the preseason?

Through the first two days of training camp, Tyler Matakevich has taken the majority of the snaps with the first-team defense, while Jon Bostic has gradually gotten his first work with the starters, mixed in.

The intention is for the two of them to compete for the mack linebacker role, taking over for Ryan Shazier in 2018, who remains an active presence with the team, even literally on the field walking with the linebackers as they go through drills.

It’s impossible to make any kind of declaration about where the competition is heading after two practices. These things are generally decided in stadiums, anyway, and the Steelers are a little under two weeks from playing their first preseason game.

There will be plenty of snaps to go around, but I’m going to be curious to see how they will be divided between Matakevich and Bostic over the course of the preseason. Will they take turns starting games? Will they rotate between series?

There might not be a bigger key variable to the 2018 season than the quality of play that the Steelers are able to get out of the inside linebacker position. No matter what methods they may take, they must ensure that they arrive at the correct answer as to who best fits what they need to do on the defensive side of the ball.

There is still plenty of time to work through different combinations, so we shouldn’t read into any one thing too deeply. Especially not this early. We’ll relay all the information that we gather, but only as one datapoint as part of a much larger picture, and one that is evolving on a daily basis.

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