Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: ILB Tyler Matakevich
Stock Value: Down
Make no mistake, fourth-year veteran Tyler Matakevich is still in the driver’s seat for a spot on the 53-man roster, even after the Steelers just added three linebackers over the course of the past three days. His standout performances on special teams, even as the coaches increasingly realize that he will not be a defensive contributor, are highly valued.
But his security is certainly less than it has been since his rookie season. Not simply because they brought in Devin Bush in the first round, but the dual pairing of Sutton Smith and Ulysees Grant III, two players who seem ready-made to contribute on special teams, with more modern-day NFL potential, threaten his tenure on the 53-man roster without a doubt.
In other words, he has significant competition now and will have to earn it. The team has already entrenched a top three at the position with Vince Williams, Mark Barron, and now Bush, so he can’t even crack the roster as a top backup, and that is after losing L.J. Fort in free agency and releasing Jon Bostic yesterday.
While the Steelers did for a period of time have six inside linebackers on the 53-man roster in 2016, and 11 linebackers in total, I wouldn’t exactly bet on that happening again. But it is possible for everybody to be carried, especially if Smith proves himself able to play off the edge.
That would give them 10 linebackers in total, which is certainly doable depending on how other roster spots shake out. With T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, and Olasunkanmi Adeniy, Smith would be the number five on the outside, and Matakevich and Grant would be the fourth and fifth inside.
But in order for the Steelers to justify going this heavy at linebacker, all of these guys have to earn their way on the team. It’s been a long time since the team has had every draft pick make the roster, but they still get preference.
His plus special teams ability will be an advantage, but on the flip side, the coaching staff probably views Matakevich as a player whose potential defensively is already tapped out and found wanting. Grant and Smith are guys who can fly around the field, which is clearly what they were looking for.