One of the most exciting things about training camp is watching a player rise from obscurity to claim a role on the team. That is what we got a chance to witness with rookie linebacker Matthew Thomas, an undrafted free agent out of Florida State.
While he has impressed quite a bit during the preseason, however, I did want to note that I saw some issues in his game that I had not previously seen before the finale against the Carolina Panthers—issues that were there on his college tape. Indications, though not surprising in the least, that he still has some growing to do.
Not that it was all like that. He continued to make plays, of course, while maintaining an improved diagnostic ability, as he exhibited on this running play late in the first half. He stayed clean in traffic and was able to make the tackle after a three-yard gain on first down.
The second half did not begin well for him, however. He missed a tackle on the second play of the Panthers’ first drive, for one thing. Missed tackles have mercifully not been a regular feature of his game this preseason, and they do happen to everybody, but this was a problem in college.
Missed tackles happen, though. Lack of effort is a choice, and I don’t like the effort he shows in forcing the receiver out of bounds on this second-and-10 play, which goes for nine yards when it should have gone for seven.
He showed better effort than on the previous two plays later on that drive, patrolling his zone as the running back, Barner, flashed across the middle of the field. Thomas and Tyler Matakevich were on him immediately to stop him after a four-yard gain on second and 10.
Oh yeah, then he, you know, recorded a strip sack that he returned 75 yards for what very nearly was a touchdown. On the play, he rushed from the edge and showed skilled hand usage.
As Alex Kozora mentioned yesterday, that is probably one of the reasons that, at least for now, the Steelers are content to work with only three true outside linebackers on the roster with Olasunkanmi Adeniyi on injured reserve. They purposefully got long looks at him working on the edge this preseason.