Steelers Rookie LB Tyler Matakevich Impresses PFF With Preseason Play Against Eagles

Steelers Tyler Matakevich

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Tyler Matakevich saw quite a bit of playing time in the team’s 17-0 Thursday night preseason loss at Heinz Field to the Philadelphia Eagles as the Temple product was on the field for 21 defensive snaps in addition to 9 special teams snaps. Matakevich finished the game with 6 combined tackles of which 5 came while playing on defense. Pro Football Focus was very impressed with Matakevich’s play Thursday and according to them, the Steelers seventh round draft pick this year posted the single best inside linebacker performance of the preseason heading into Friday night’s games.

While I’m not going to show you all 30 snaps that Matakevich played Thursday night against the Eagles, I will show the 6 plays that he registered a tackle stat on.

Matakevich’s first tackle in the game came on special teams as part of the punt coverage team. While the Eagles punt returner managed to get quite a few yards on this particular play, you have to admire Matakevich’s effort as he finally chased him down from behind. Luckily for the Steelers, the Eagles were penalized for an illegal block above the waist on the return.

While Matakevich played quite a bit on special teams early on in the game, he didn’t begin seeing snaps on defense until the fourth quarter. On this 2nd and 4 counter running play, Matakevich slips past the second-level block of the left tackle and trips up the running back for a short gain.

On this 3rd and short play, Matakevich drops into zone coverage in the middle of the field while also spying the quarterback. While the young linebacker does ultimately tackle the scrambling quarterback, it’s unfortunately after a first down was gained.

On this 3rd and short draw play, Matakevich knives through a gap on the right side of the Eagles offensive line and earns a solo tackle for a loss.

On this counter to the Eagles right side, Matakevich defeats the block attempt by the left tackle and he an outside linebacker Travis Feeney split the tackle

On Matakevich’s final tackle of the game, the linebacker scrapes around the outside of the line to fill the gap on the split-zone run play

Matakevich has two more preseason games to show that he belongs on this years 53-man roster. He currently appears to be in a good battle with fellow linebacker L.J. Forte, so watch very closely how the two play on special teams in addition to defense in the coming weeks.

  • Rusted Out

    When it’s all said and done, Matakevich is gonna be touted as a steal in the draft.

  • I absolutely think this guy is going to be a special player. I sure hope we keep him around.

  • I like his motor, footwork and technique. He likes to keep his nose in the action. He looks like a steeler LB all the way.

  • Michael Martin

    Guy has football smarts. Will be something special if he can get a touch quicker.

  • Daniel

    Chances of him making the 53?

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    How many snaps did he play against the Eagles first team?

  • Walt Dongo

    if this guy doesnt make the cut someone will grab him for sure. i hope he makes it.

  • RickM

    Great stuff to see. Fingers crossed that this is only the start of a really good career.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think about 80% i don’t see him not making the team.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Or Hargrave! 2 steals potentially!

  • “WC”

    See the ball, got get the ball! Not the biggest, fastest, or athletic, but simply a football player was the words by Colbert and Tomlin. It’s football justice when a guy like him gets and opportunity (Tomlin). When many of you are talking about the other guys, I was focused on him specifically. He trains, studies film and try to be in the right place as much as possible on plays.

    He takes all the attributes he has physically to be the best player he can be as well as a team player and contribute to a winning culture. Put him on the PS if you want to and he’ll be snatched off before the ink dries. You don’t get the awards he has gotten as the best defensive player in college just by chance.

    I’m not talking about thorpe awards, I’m talking about defensive player, period. Yeah you have your SEC studs, etc., but they didn’t get the awards, he did. Imagine those other guys at the awards ceremony just knowing they have the award(s) wrapped up and his name is called. Imagine the shock that must have caused.

    I’m not too concerned about the other guys who have been on the team and have not produced. They need to build and prepare for the future. Matakevich is the future.

    As the pre season comes to a close. Deciding if he stays or goes to PS is a no brainer. To the Steelers, other teams are watching him. Their omission is your gain. You were extremely lucky to be able to draft him. Late round pick but an early round jewel.

  • Sonny Saks

    Pulling for this kid big. Same home town, same high school.

  • Michael James

    He’s a (young) football player with an incredible high football-IQ and perfect work ethic. I would be shocked if they kept someone like Steven Johnson (nothing against you Steven) over Matakevich.

  • Steelers12

    Keep him and trade fort for Rowe

  • OIF3gunner

    In a heartbeat

  • Steelers12

    Now we need feeney to spend a year on the practice squad and bulk up

  • PaeperCup

    I agree. The Bednarik Award recipients have a great track record. And he seems like an “old reliable” type player.

  • Jaybird

    I don’t put much stock into college awards. There’s over 100 teams in d 1 ,and you can really rack up stats depending where you play and what system you play in. How many Heisman award winners were busts? How many weren’t the best players coming out of college but still won because of compiling stats ?
    That being said I like the kid. Good football IQ, a nose for the ball, and some upside . Track speed and football speed are two different things so I’m not concerned with his 40 time. Good late round pick.


    He has that same technique that Lambert and Troy used……… the two points of contact, lasso and spin. He looks like a kid competing at the rodeo. Lots of other things to consider besides simply tackling ability, but guys with his heart and effort create synergy.

  • Dom

    I’m putting it at 40%, there’s a few fighting for that ILB spot.

  • Walt Dongo

    how many ILBs do they normally keep? 5? he cant not make it if thats the case. Timmons/Shaz/Vince/Fort/Dirty

  • Michael Martin

    4 or 5. He is on the bubble.

  • Michael Martin

    Kid is a tackling machine. His college stats show it. His preseason performance is showing it. His Training camp was showing it.

  • Steelersking

    Keep Fort, and stash Matakevich on PS. He should be able to clear waivers. Or roll with 2 QBs and keep them both on the 53

  • Michael Martin

    Can’t wait for our D to gel!

  • Michael Martin

    I don’t know, I think some team that is struggling at ILB or suffering questions regarding depth due to injuries will take this kid. He was the Bednarik award winner. Had like 500 tackles in college. He will get poached.

  • Michael James

    I’m putting it at 80% (but i think it should be near 100%). Feeney is an OLB and hasn’t shown much so far. That leaves Johnson, Fort and Matakevich who should battle it out for 2 spots. I can’t see Matakevich being the odd one out, since he has reportedly looked good in camp and was by far the best of those three in actual game action.

  • steeltown

    I certainly hope he makes the roster over a player such as S.Johnson or even Dangerfield who could be kept a phone call away

  • steeltown

    Battling Steven Johnson for that 5th spot, it’ll come down to their play on special teams

  • budabar

    The only one on the field that is tackling someone been a lot of whiffs in this game

  • Phil Brenneman II

    If Fort is the real deal I would really like to see them thin out somewhere to keep Matakevich. We will see what he does in the final 2 but the dude is all hustle, can get off blocks and sift through the garbage. Seems like he would be a potential team leading tackler at some point during his career if given the chance. Just seems to have that knack for it.

  • connfyoozed .

    This. I personally don’t think Matakevich would get claimed off of waivers if we tried to put him on the practice squad, but it would be a huge risk to take. The 2 guys you mentioned wouldn’t be very likely to be picked up by anyone else: Dangerfield could be stashed on our practice squad if need be, and while Johnson is not PS eligible, he would likely stay on the open market for a little while at least. It might be a good idea to look into trading a Johnson or Fort (although I would rather keep Fort) to a LB needy team like the Eagles to solve this dilemma ahead of time.

  • connfyoozed .

    Trade Johnson for Rowe, keep Fort. However, I don’t believe the Eagles are really looking to trade Rowe… but if they are, I’d be happy to be wrong.

  • connfyoozed .

    Steven Johnson is decent NFL linebacker depth. He hasn’t looked great so far in exhibition games, but he does have a track record as a good special teams player and has started a couple of NFL games in Denver. Fort for whatever reason hasn’t been able to stay on an NFL active roster for a few years (he was in Seattle and New England, both of which have good LB talent), but he does have experience and looks in every way like a keeper. Matakevich might very well make it through waivers to the practice squad: he is on the small side, and a team claiming him would have to keep him on the active roster for at least 3 weeks… but I’m starting to wonder if trying to move him to the PS is worth the risk. Fort is also PS eligible.

    It’s going to be a very interesting decision.

  • Jaybird

    I’m not disagreeing with you . I like his upside. Especially with a potentially great D line in front of him. A player like Dirty can excel behind a line like I think we are going to have.

  • T3xassteelers

    Yeah.. I would keep Matakevich and Fort over Johnson, imo. Matakevich has potential starting (not now) and Fort looks like a ST stud with potential for a solid backup ILB. Get rid of Johnson who in my mind, is just a great ST player with less potential than Matakevich or Fort.

  • Rotten Sircus

    We need to give Dirty Red Jack Lamberts #58 cause he’s the 2nd coming of Ham / Lambert !!!

  • Craig M

    Plays way above his draft analysis, has the motor/ enthusiasm of Kevin Greene. I think he will develop into someone special as a player.

  • Kelly A

    The Jets need Linebackers, so if someone with the IQ and intensity of Matakavich becomes free, I don’t see any scenario in which they won’t take him; I’ll be surprised if he made it through waivers

  • He’s better than Fort and the others. They’re bigger, but not no where near the tackling genius that Matakevich is.

  • He’s plenty quick enough. Did you watch the GIFs above?

  • Let’s hope it’s with the Steelers.

  • If they keep him over Matakevich, I’m going to be PISSED!

  • John Noh

    I really hope he makes the 53 because I don’t think he’ll clear waivers for the PS.

  • I doubt they’d trade him for Johnson.

  • Rosco

    Would it be crazy to have him and Dangerfield fighting for the last spot?

  • Again, Matakevich is better than Fort.

  • Tomlin likes him much more than the other two. He’s a keeper, and Mike knows it.

  • Not going to roll with only two QBs.

  • Exactly.

  • That’s why we’ll be keeping him.

  • Agree 100%.

  • Doesn’t matter if you’re small (even though he’s really not as small as some say he is). Chuck Noll kept a few ‘smallish’ players in the past on both offense and defense because they had great footwork and had a lot of heart. The ‘smallish’ defensive players he kept around were very good tacklers.

  • Tomlin loves him. That may be all it takes.

  • DoctorNoah


  • Steelersking

    Most teams look hardest at the players from their own camp first. There haven’t been many players that the Steelers really wanted to keep on the PS. I can only think of three, Mauro, Urbrik and Thad Gibson, and that has been in the past 10 years. They managed to get Chickillo on the PS last year, same with Grant. The guy that won an award for top DB in college we picked up in the 7th last year wasn’t claimed…Matakevich should be able to slip through.

  • Michael Martin

    This isn’t boiler-plate black and grey one size fits all round peg round hole. LOTS of guys slip through to PS. Certain guys are at a high risk to get poached. Losing Mauro and HoJo in recent years flat out sucked.

    As far as your comment regarding Gerod Holliman that has nothing to do with Linebackers. Earlier today someone tried to bring up Heisman trophy bust’s as having some bearing on Matakevich. Now it’s a DB award?

    We promoted Chick because people were trying to poach him. HoJo went to the Bucs PS because they offered to pay him Full roster salary to be there. Mauro got snaked by Bruce Arians. He has tried to snake multiple people from us. He is flat out bitter.

    In the end, Dirty Red is a proven tackler averaging like 10 tackles per game in college. On a team that flat out CANT tackle even risking a proven tackler slipping through the cracks is foolish.

  • Michael Martin

    The Bednarik and Nagursky award winners are usually pretty good players.

  • Jaybird

    Easy bro. I applaud your enthusiasm , but your comparing a rookie to two of the greatest players of all time.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    When it comes to our players being put on ps everyone thinks that teams will not look to go after ours and will be looking to sign their own ps players which may be true for the most part but my thing is this if I’m a gm I would definitely be interested in the our teams stashed players for upgrades and when it comes to LBers I would definitely check out what the steelers and Baltimore have being we’re like linebacker/wr/guard university while our other positions may be safe for the most part just like I would check teams like Denver and indy for qbs

  • Steelersking

    Matakevich is running 3rd team, he by no means is guaranteed a roster spot. He is a proven tackler for a small college who did not go up against top talent, and certainly not proven in the NFL. Chickillo made the final 53 and was cut the day after for Cockrell I believe, then cleared waivers and got on the PS for a few weeks until injuries got him onto the 53. Fort has been making just as many plays. Don’t take this to mean I don’t like Matakevich, he is definitely someone I’ll be cheering for. He is a Pittsburgh type player that I hope contributes to the team in the future.

    I brought up Holliman to show that awards in college mean nothing once they get to the NFL. I forgot about HoJo, but the Steelers weren’t going to pay what the Bucs did. I don’t think Matakevich is high risk to get poached, he’s a late 7th round pick, not the most athletic guy out there. Maybe the Titans or Cardinals will try to poach him, they like their Steelers players. Mauro did hurt, he should have been on the 53 over Cam Thomas. I know the team seems to prefer veterans but that was still head scratching.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Slow down cowboy one step at a time he’s got to make the team first

  • Michael Pennant

    If its close then Matakevich wins because of his youth and upside, whereas Fort is what he is and has been on what 4 or 5 other teams already.

  • Alexander Heath

    If Hargraves and Dupree develops nicely and Shazier stay healthy I can see Dirty Red being a classic Zach Thomas on defense. We need somebody who can handle sweeps. Vince Williams can but with the pending free agent in future we will see.

  • “WC”

    You can have all the physical attributes in the world. You can have the look of a Greek God, but if you don’t produce on the field of play, what good are you? Running around in your underwear doing forty times, is not the same as running around in full football gear. Matakevich is just a good foot ball player. Nothing fancy, just reliable, steady and hungry. Tomlin calls him “Dirty Red” I like the moniker. He’s one of those players that has enough physical attributes and smarts and he’s moldable (Colbert) in what they want without diminishing his natural abilities.

  • Michael Martin

    Red is just as proven a tackler as L.J. Fort when it comes to the NFL. Neither of them have anything other than preseason stats. Fort has five years of them but that doesn’t say a lot.

    For the record I think Fort looks very good too. However, there is a pretty big chance we only carry 4 inside linebackers. If that comes to pass it means we have to cut either Fort or Red and hope they clear waivers.

    I would rather we traded one of them for Eric Rowe than gambled on either of them clearing waivers when they are both doing very well on a per snap basis. If we can’t trade for a decent CB, then I hope we keep them both and carry 5 ILB’s.

    Fort has 8 tackles in 67 snaps, averaging 1 tackle every 8.375 snaps.
    Red has 6 tackles in 38 snaps, averaging 1 tackle every 6.333 snaps.

    Fort is 8-0 with none of his tackles being assisted.
    Red is 4-2 with two of his tackles being assisted but one of them being a solo tackle for loss.

    The sample size is very very small for both of them. They both have a lot of potential as far as developmental depth guys go. Neither of them are the kind of guy I would be happy about them walking out the door and we get stuck looking stupid like what happened with Mauro and HoJo.

  • Michael Martin

    Yep, seen it. Now, Imagine him being a hair faster and a touch stronger.

  • Rusted Out

    Seriously… Have you seen that list??? Almost every single player on it is a household name. Matakevich has got be decent just based on law of averages.

  • Dom

    Surely the law of averages would mean it’s more likely that Matakevich would be a bad player? Because he has to bring the average of the players of the Bednarik Award down?

    Just being pedantic of course.

  • Dom

    We say this every year, Chickillo, Grant etc. the fact of the matter is teams prefer sticking with what they’ve got rather than looking elsewhere.

  • The Chin

    The next two games will flesh out TMs ability to make the 53 or not. He misses a few tackles next week and this site will scream shoulda traded him while he was hot. Lol

  • PittsburghSports

    I’m not sure this is a battle between Matakevich and Fort. I think it’s Matakevich vs Steven Johnson. Against the Eagles, Fort was the #4 MLB, behind Shazier, Timmons, and VW. When VW sat, it was Fort and Matakevich who teamed up. Steven Johnson didn’t play until Fort sat down.

  • I think we trade Forte to the Eagles and keep Matakevich on the 53. The Eagles are weak enough at ILB that I could see them grab him if we try to stash him.

  • Imagine Superman being just a hair faster than a speeding bullet. Does he really need to be?

  • Stephen Peepels

    How do you know who Tomlin likes better? Does he phone you after practice?

  • steeltown


  • Scunge

    If Shazier, Timmons and Williams are locks to make the team, and if they keep 5 ILBs in all, then you are saying Steven Johnson is also a lock to make the team?

    Because when you say Fort and Big Red are in a battle, that to me says Johnson is a lock and has the team made. I just don’t see it that way. Fort and Matakevich can play special teams and actually play meaningful snaps on defense. Johnson can’t do that, he is strictly a special teamer and really hasn’t impressed in that regard.

    I believe that Fort and Big Red should make the team and Johnson is going to be cut. Johnson was not tendered by the Broncos and the Titans did not keep him around and instead went for our own Sean Spence. I honestly don’t know what fans see in him to think that he has this team made or that he is a good prospect or head and shoulders above Fort and Matakevich.

  • Michael Martin

    If he is trying to beat Shazier for the tackle…yeah.

  • Steelers12

    what he said

  • That’s my worry. If he keeps this up we have to keep him.

  • He wouldn’t be starting.

  • He admitted in an article that he was watching Matakevich the whole time he was out there against the Eagles. He really does like the guy’s motor. Does that answer your question, wizenheimer?

  • He didn’t even mention Fort or Johnson.

  • Okay okay, we all know Superman is already much faster than a speeding bullet. lol

  • Michael Martin

    xD Yeah, but he has low football IQ. Too much krypton.

  • No one is beating Shazier for any tackle

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    I could only ask for The same luck with OLB’s!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    If we can keep Jarvis Jones doing nothing, Why wouldn’t give this kid a chance?

  • Rusted Out

    Yes thx. That needed to be said.

  • The Truth

    I hope so. I really like his hustle and tenacity. It would be great to see another ILB lead the defense ala Lambert style.

  • rdjmsr53

    I don’t think 46 isnanlinebacker number. To me that means the Steelers didn’t expect much from him. His best chance maybe the practice squad. From there he could get picked up by another team.

  • Rob H

    Wow, the hyperbole in this thread has reached some amusing heights, he has a very slim chance of even making the roster, he is most likely heading for the practice squad.
    I’m also amazed that anybody still pays any attention to PFF rankings and grades.

  • Conserv_58

    IMO, Tyler Matakevich is a football player in every sense. He is a perfect example of why, when evaluating players, he is more than the sum of his measurables. He has the, “It Factor”. He’s a guy that may not pass the eye ball test for a lot of teams, but one who’s talent defies his limited physical attributes. It’s quite evident that he has a high football IQ and exceptional instincts. Those, above the neck, attributes, obviously, show up on tape. He’s a play maker and, therefore, has a considerable upside. He certainly has more upside than Johnson does and that puts Tyler ahead of him in my mind.

  • Conserv_58

    Tomlin, Jerry Olsavsky, Joey Porter, Carnell Lake and even John Mitchell have all liked what they’ve seen from him so far. IMO, If he gets put on the PS he will get snapped up by another team.

  • Conserv_58

    I spent five days at camp and I watched Tyler intently. He was always around the ball whenever he got an opportunity to play. He has the uncanny ability to quickly dissect what the offense is showing and make the call. That’s very impressive for a rookie. Tomlin loves players that play above the neck. After a series in which Tyler was in on most of the snaps I saw coach, Tomlin jawing with and smiling at Tyler. That’s a sure indication that he’s got the head coach’s eye. I’m convinced that as long as he continues to stack positive plays throughout the rest of the pre season he’s going to make the final 53.

  • jujudoublestuff

    A keeper. This guy will be poached if not kept. He just balls out man. Instincts, angles and ok speed.

  • Mr jack

    Practice squad has his name on it.not ready for the big time just yet,if he was making those plays against the first string ,then it might be a different story.

  • disagree

  • MC

    My biggest disappointment out of these clips only relates to the poor job Danny Smith does with ST. When is our kick coverage going to improve?!?!?

  • SteveM2

    He’d be snatched up within two weeks by another team.

  • SteveM2

    Jerry Olsavsky was small.

  • SteveM2

    Lambert/Ham? No. Jerry Olsavsky? Yes.

  • popsiclesticks

    He also really liked Chickillo last year. A guy who got cut and made it through waivers.

  • popsiclesticks

    He would have been poached in rounds 1-6, when he was still the Bednarik winner and had like 500 tackles in college.

    I don’t think people have watched Fort or something….everybody just wants to brush him aside but he’s been all over the field in preseason. I think the best bet if you’re going to keep Matakevich is to cut Johnson.

  • popsiclesticks

    Johnson is the only one who makes sense – he’s just a guy who can play STs. I really like what I’ve seen from Fort and don’t want to cut him.

  • popsiclesticks

    Fort was covering WRs 20 yards downfield, step for step. I’m with you, if I felt I had to keep Matakevich I’d rather get rid of Steven Johnson.

  • popsiclesticks

    Then you can bring him up to your active roster, like they did with Chickillo.

  • Steelers12

    Not so sure about that

  • Michael Martin

    The best bet is to carry five. Keeping both Fort and Dirty Red. They are both starter quality in my opinion. We are that deep at ILB. If we want to carry four, we should trade one of the two for a CB, QB, or TE while we still can.

  • popsiclesticks

    If you could, sure….I just don’t think a good preseason game or two is enough to give these guys any real trade value. I don’t buy the Rowe situation but I hope I’m wrong because he’s basically a version of Sean Davis but reversed, ie a corner that can also play safety.

  • John Noh

    Because there’s a different protocol for jettisoning a first-round pick versus a seventh-round pick. Not fair but that’s just business.

  • Kelly A

    Last I checked in that first clip, Matakevich made that tackle on special teams; thus he also plays special team. I have to ask, how many plays did Johnson made in that game, or any preseason game to merit roster consideration? Already, Matakevich after two preseason games is ranked by PFF as one of top graded rookies through two weeks of the preseason; only Matthias Farley, and Vernon Hargreaves III ranked higher. To some people that doesn’t mean much, but considering the amount of time playing time he’s received, that’s quite the accomplishment. Until Steven Johnson makes some type of impactful play in a preseason game, Johnson is expendable.

  • popsiclesticks

    I don’t know, and I also don’t know who you’re trying to argue with. I’m saying if you cut a guy, you should cut Johnson, not Fort. You’re saying that since Johnson didn’t make a tackle in that game and Matakevich did, Johnson sucks and Matakevich is awesome.

    It doesn’t mean much to me, given that the top ranked rookie is something named Matthias Farley. But yes, Johnson is expendable, and that’s my point and that was the guy above me’s point. If Matakevich continues to look good and I want to keep him on the roster, I’m cutting Johnson over Fort to make room.

    But there’s always a guy who we go nuts over every preseason, be it Mauro or Ryan Lee (or whatever the OL was named) or Chickillo or now Matakevich. I’ll wait a little bit to say this guy is a superstar in the making.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Not fair, I couldn’t agree more!

  • Conserv_58

    True, but whom do they de-activate to make room, Chickillo or Forte?

  • popsiclesticks

    Perhaps someone will be hurt or otherwise shown to not be worth the spot after a few games.

  • Conserv_58

    That’s an unfair comment based on a limited sample size.

    FYI, Danny is a very good ST’s coach. While I was at training camp it was easy to tell when the ST’s were practicing because Danny Smith’s voice could be heard above everything else. He is very loud, fiery and as passionate as it gets. When he is running his practices he doesn’t stand on the sideline and bark out instructions. He gets right in the middle of the field and teaches. In fact, he can be seen quickly moving and running from one place to another in order to get his point across. You also need to keep in mind that a lot of those players we see playing ST’s are rookies, fringe and bubble guys that are trying to make the roster. A great deal of them won’t be on the final roster and therefore, the 2016 ST’s unit will comprise of different faces than we are seeing now.

  • MC

    I’m saying this purely off the fact that I have seen absolutely no improvement since he was brought on in 2013. Our kickoff coverage has been the weakest part of special teams and Im sure we would rank high on average yards allowed on kick returns.
    I’m not questioning the effort that you have observed at camp but perhaps it’s the schemes he’s implementing that aren’t making the cut. In regards to players, we’ve had guns on ST – Ross Ventrone, DHB, Vince Williams, Shark are all consistent on coverage units.