Are you prepared for a future in which Tyler Matakevich is the only remaining player on the 2020 53-man roster from the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Draft class of 2016? Because that appears to be the direction in which we are headed. Already gone are Jerald Hawkins (traded), Travis Feeney (never made the team), and Demarcus Ayers (briefly on the roster).
Meanwhile, both of their top two picks, Artie Burns and Sean Davis, have already essentially said in so many words that they are either ready or resigned to moving on. Burns lost his starting job long ago and is looking for a fresh start. When Davis got injured last year, the team went out and acquired Minkah Fitzaptrick, who merely became a first-team All-Pro, so obviously he’s not getting back in the lineup there, nor will the Steelers pay him as much as a team looking for a starter.
Then there is Javon Hargrave, a player they would obviously love to keep, but who is almost assuredly going to price himself out of Pittsburgh. Not only will they be strapped against the cap if they make the effort to re-sign Bud Dupree, they know a 4-3 team would be able to afford to give him more money because he would be playing more.
Meanwhile, Matakevich is a guy who knows exactly what his role is and how to execute it. Would he love to do more? Absolutely. Will he hold a grudge because he appears to be fated to be a career special-teamer at the NFL level? Certainly not.
“Shoot, I love this place”, the Temple product would recently tell Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In actuality, he is getting to be among the longest-tenured defensive players, now with four years under his belt. “I feel like I fit in, just blue-collar, chip-on-your-shoulder”, he added.
As far as the future goes, as he prepares to hit unrestricted free agency, “we’ll see what happens”. Whatever does happen, one thing will not change, and that is the mutual admiration that exists between the player and the organization.
“The way the conversations I have had with [Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith], the respect that’s there and the way they look at me, I am grateful for that and appreciative of that”, he told Adamski. “It’s just nothing but respect both ways. I love those guys”.
Between himself and the fans, that’s another matter. A lot of people seem to want to run him out of town just to assure that he never takes the field on defense, yet he remains an invaluable contributor on special teams, with 53 tackles in that capacity over the course of his career.
The only thing that might stand in his way is the fact that the team had some success via special teams from a couple of young linebackers who figure to be back next year. Rookie sixth-round pick Ulysees Gilbert played a lot before he was injured. He was replaced by Robert Spillane from the practice squad, who racked up 10 tackles in eight games.