If you only went by spring practices, then you would have to conclude that the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking at starting Tyler Matakevich at inside linebacker next to Vince Williams. He spent the entire span of OTAs and mandatory minicamp running with the first-team defense while Jon Bostic worked with L.J. Fort with the second team.
We don’t only go by spring practices though. A lot of things can change during July and August. And just because the Steelers ran Matakevich first-team all spring doesn’t mean that they necessarily view him as higher on a depth chart than Bostic—not that there is much of a depth chart at this time of year.
Still, it has been enough to at least convince Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Steelers are pretty serious about looking at Matakevich as a very legitimate option to be a starter in the defense this year. Asked yesterday during a chat session who he would predict would be starting next to Williams by the time the regular season begins, he went with Dirty Red.
“My guess right now is Matakevich will line up with him in the base defense”, he wrote. “Once they go to extra defensive backs in the subpackages I think there is a good chance [Terrell] Edmunds gets on the field then. But there is an entire training camp and four preseason games in the offing. Lots can and will happen between now and the start of the regular season”.
That was not the only time that he addressed that discussion either, which has been one of the more significant conversations the Steelers and their fans have had over the course of this offseason, or at least since the 2018 NFL Draft when they came up empty-handed at the position.
Earlier in the chat, in a question about Bostic, Fittipaldo cautioned that there weren’t any conclusions he could draw about the free agent based on football in shorts, but he called it “noteworthy” that it was the third-year man who got the work with the starters. “We’ll see what happens in camp, but for now it seems it’s Matakevich’s job to lose”.
The problem with all this is that we don’t actually have any idea if what something seems to be is the same as what it actually is. Yes, it is certainly notable that the team didn’t give Bostic any work with the starters if he is a player that they expect to be with the starters, but we don’t know necessarily that that means he is being looked at as a backup or anything.
Admittedly this time of the year is a drain when it comes to football because there is only so much to talk about, and what we have to talk about is not actual football, but rather instructional work. Basing any strong conclusions off of the spring is foolhardy, which is why we always have to qualify our statements, as Fittipaldo did here.