Tyler Matakevich The Unknown Piece In Defensive Puzzle

What role will Tyler Matakevich play in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ attempt to topple the New England Patriots later today? The second-year player has functioned as the backup inside linebacker this season, but missed last week due to a shoulder injury, and spent part of this week limited in practice.

He was suddenly thrust into a starting role two games ago following Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury, but was injured himself in the same game, with L.J. Fort, the last man standing, being called upon to finish out the game, though he was seemingly overlooked when searching for another starter.

Last week, the Steelers went out and signed Sean Spence, a former 2012 third-round draft pick of theirs, who started against the Ravens and played the lion’s share of the snaps at the mack linebacker position, but outside linebacker Arthur Moats also saw his time there, with Fort cleaning up here and there.

That was the plan without Matakevich. But he is going to dress today, presumably. As a young player, his limited status in practice could hinder his ability to play, however. And just because he was the backup plan when there was a starter in place doesn’t mean that can’t change.

So I will be interested to see how Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff approach the situation tonight. With Shazier on injured reserve, to they really intend for Matakevich to start for the remainder of the regular season and on through the playoffs, or will they change their tune?

They did sign Spence, who has more starting experience in Shazier’s role than anybody else on the team. He looked rusty last week because, frankly, he was. He not only had less than a week to prepare for the game, he had also been out of football for months.

Tomlin’s pre-game comments during the week seemed to indicate that they don’t really have a fixed plan, and that they will seek to find answers via trial and error, which suggests that at least a couple of different players may be given the shot to become the ‘hot hand’ and hold on to the role.

But who will be given the first crack at it? Will it be Spence? Or Moats? Or Fort? Or Matakevich? At least for this particular game, will they attempt to rely primarily on a dime defense against Tom Brady and his spread offensive approach that has been their kryptonite?

While some have soured on his long-term prospects, there is still a pretty significant contingent of ‘Dirty Red’ supporters who believe that he has the capability of legitimately being a full-time starting inside linebacker. This may be the best opportunity he ever gets to demonstrate the truth of that hypothesis.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • DoctorNoah

    #DirtyRedHOF. Slow and steady wins the race. #BronkoNagurskiDontLie

  • Chris92021

    Today is the day we figure out if Matakevich is a solely a cult hero or has a future with the team beyond special teams. I believe he is more cult hero than anything but I am hoping I am dead wrong by the end of today’s business.

  • Mark

    What is known is that he is slow, small, and not strong enough at point of attack. Good special teams player, but not a starter at LB.

  • nutty32

    Not holding my breath but fingers crossed 44 pulls a Jerry Olsavsky and pleasantly surprises with grit and brains.
    “don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon” – John Madden SB XI pregame speech

  • Steeler Nation!

    Correct. He is not going to be a LB in this league. He is a good ST player, and that is his opportunity to stay in the league. I am hoping that Fort is ready to take on more of a role this week, and then more dime personnel than is typical.

  • hdogg48

    At this point I am wondering what it will take to trade up
    and get Roaquan Smith ILB from Georgia in next yerar’s
    draft to replace Shazier.

    Maybe a #1 and Martavis Bryant?

  • Dee Evolution

    Let him be an enforcer. We need to get back to our old style of play, anyway.

  • treeher

    Matakevich obviously beat out Fort for the back=up job.

  • DoctorNoah

    8 tackles, 2 QB pressures, 2 passes deflected, and an INT.

  • DoctorNoah

    Also, will somehow knock gronk out of the game

  • Steeler Nation!

    Hey I like the guy as much as anyone. But he is too slow to play ILB in the NFL. He simply cannot get where he needs to be to make the plays that NFL LBs have to make. Fort may not be able to get the job done, but at least he has the speed to make the necessary plays.

  • treeher

    I understand your point about Matakevich. But he beat out Fort. Period. So what does that say about Fort?

  • Steeler Nation!

    And James Harrison was cut 3 times before becoming a Steeler legend. Not saying Fort will ever be anything CLOSE to that. But I sure like him better in this matchup.

  • Matt Manzo

    I’d like to see a healthy rotation of Red and Fort! Fort made plays last week and no one is talking about them. Spence and Moats both made mistakes.

  • Rocksolid20

    Do it !

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Not giving up on Shazier yet…we still have time to see how he is progressing. His surgery is suppose to be a 6-8 month recovery and we should learn a lot after 4-5 months and his prognosis

  • Mr jack

    Do not start Dirty red ,play Forte

  • Mr jack

    Not really.Forte is a better LB

  • Ni mo

    Keep him on special teams

  • Ni mo

    They won’t get a high pick for Bryant

  • Ni mo

    For real the surgery was to stabilize his spine Jesus , people ruling him done already

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I don’t recall hearing his name all game.

  • treeher

    Yes, really. He backed up Shazier.

  • treeher

    Fort time in 40: 4.67 Mata time: 4.81. Not much to choose from there.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Fort is no Shazier, but who is in terms of speed. But I’ll take the 4.67 guy over the 4.81. Mata was born about 50 years too late. We were playing with faster LBs in the 70s.