The Pittsburgh Steelers brought in three new inside linebackers between free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft. They also said goodbye to a couple of inside linebackers from last season’s roster. How is the unit going to be shaped this year, and how many will make the team? The only thing we know for sure is that Vince Williams, Mark Barron, and Devin Bush will be on the team.
The rest is guesswork. But for Tyler Matakevich, entering his fourth season, he knows that his fate is in his hands, and there’s no guessing what that takes: work. The former seventh-round pick has reached a point in his career, especially with the additions to his position this offseason, that he knows his role is on special teams, but he also knows how to win a roster spot. “My mentality hasn’t changed” from the beginning of his career to now, he said.
“It’s always the same. I’m just trying to do everything I can to the best of my abilities”, Matakevich told Brian Batko. “It doesn’t matter who they bring in; I know I’m the one who controls my own destiny. You’ve got to control what you can control, and that’s how you play. As long as I’m putting good stuff on film, and coaches are seeing that, I’ll be here”.
Make no mistake, Matakevich has certainly had his higher aspirations. Even last season, he was ostensibly competing with Jon Bostic for a starting job throughout the offseason. He opened OTAs as the primary inside linebacker next to Vince Williams, and that continued into training camp and the preseason before Bostic took the job.
A few weeks into the season, when Williams missed a game due to injury, Matakevich did start as the next man up, but L.J. Fort heavily rotated in, playing in sub-packages, and ended up emerging as the primary player next to Williams by the end of the season.
With Williams, and now Barron and Bush, Matakevich knows that he is far down the pecking order, and it would take a lot to get him on the field. He knows why the team brought in these players with their particular skill sets, which is because they had too many players with his skill set.
But he also knows that there is still a place for him, and all he needs to go is go out and earn it, as he has done each of the past three seasons, even when it hasn’t been obvious that he would make the team. He should be regarded as the frontrunner for the number four inside linebacker position, but there is competition for that as well.