Now that we’ve wrapped up the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series here at Steelers Depot, it’s time to turn our attention to the Ranking the Starters series for the Steelers.
For clarity’s sake, we’ll run down the 24 starters, which include kicker and punter, but not long snapper or returners. Offensively, I’m going to rank the starters based on a three-wide set, with one tight end, meaning no fullback (sorry Rosie Nix fans). Defensively, I’m going to roll with the Steelers’ 3-4 defense, even though they run their nickel package much more than the actual 3-4 defense. So that means no Mike Hilton in this list. That also means no Jon Bostic, because as of right now, Tyler Matakevich is the projected starter based on everything I’ve read.
Additionally, this list is based off my own personal rankings regarding skills, not value to the team like I did two years ago.
I’ll run down this group of 24 players in groups of three, making for an eight-piece series. Today, we’ll start off with No. 24-22.
Last season’s list:
No. 24 – Jordan Berry
No. 23 – Ross Cockrell
No. 22 – Eli Rogers
Let’s take a look at this year’s list.
No. 24 — Jordan Berry
Really, it hasn’t changed at all at the bottom of the list.
While I do like Berry a bit more than the whole of Steeler Nation does, the Australian punter saw his average yards per punt drop nearly three full yards from 2016 to 2017, but Berry did pick up one more punt downed inside the 20-yard line, compared to 2016.
Where Berry struggles is with directional punting. However, he rarely out-kicked his coverage, as the Steelers allowed just 177 total return yards last season on 23 attempts (7.7 yards per return).
Berry will have to fight for his job in camp later this month with Matt Wile, but Danny Smith seems to really like Berry and believe in him, so that should factor into the roster decision in early August.
No. 23 — Tyler Matakevich
Ah, yes. Dirty Red. A true fan favorite in Pittsburgh.
Don’t get me wrong: Matakevich is an easy guy to root for, due to his backstory as an elite college linebacker at Temple that fell to the seventh round to the Steelers.
But there was a reason for that: he simply isn’t athletic enough to play on all four downs in today’s league. I’m not trying to knock him at all; I’m just trying to keep his abilities in perspective.
A special teams demon terror, Matakevich has a nose for the football in that role, but he’s slow at times to fill against the run, won’t drop into coverage much, and isn’t much of a blitzer.
Maybe Matakevich proves me wrong this year, should he hold off Jon Bostic for the starting job in camp? But as of right now, he’s the lowest positional starter for the Steelers heading into the season.
For what it’s worth, Bostic would probably fall into the same area on this list as Matakevich.
No. 22 — Sean Davis
Full disclosure: I’m probably the biggest believer in Davis here at Steelers Depot. He’s extremely versatile, is constantly around the football, and is exceptionally athletic.
However, those three things don’t always correlate into a good football player. Last year, I had Davis at No. 12, and in hindsight I was way to high. I very well might be way too low this year, but his play last year was maddeningly inconsistent, flashing great potential for a few weeks, but then crashing back to Earth with mind-numbing mistakes in big spots.
This year, Davis should finally be able to settle into a set role, allowing him to grow as a player. I do think Davis had to cover for Mike Mitchell a lot last season, so with Morgan Burnett in the fold, hopefully Davis can worry about his assignment and allow himself to unlock that vast potential all of Steeler Nation saw in 2016.
If Davis can clean up the missed tackles and make a few more plays on the football, he will undoubtedly jump up this list next year.