Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Instinct, Guile Matakevich Trademarks

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Instinct, Guile Matakevich Trademarks

Article excerpt

Tyler Matakevich isn't supposed to be here. After all, how many linebackers who run a 4.81 in the 40-yard dash make it to the NFL?

Any linebacker who runs that at the NFL combine is red flagged and most teams won't consider drafting them. That's pretty much what happened to Matakevich, an All-American at Temple where he won the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards.

All 32 teams passed on him.

The Steelers did, too. But with their second selection in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, No. 246 overall in the 253-player draft, they took a flyer on him. They knew he had physical limitations, but they wanted to see if his uncanny ability to make plays could translate from college to the NFL.

Fifteen months later, Matakevich is running with the first-team defense in training camp. He's not a starter, but he is the top reserve at both inside spots and playing starter's snaps because Pro Bowler Ryan Shazier and new starter Vince Williams have been injured or are being rested.

Matakevich will never be mistaken for Shazier when it comes to his athletic profile, but it has been hard not to take notice of him in the first 11 practices of training camp. Matakevich has been a standout when the Steelers have scrimmaged, including laying a huge hit on Fitzgerald Toussaint in the first snap of a goal-line drill Sunday night at Heinz Field.

"Having that year under your belt is huge," said Matakevich, who made the 53-man roster as a rookie but played only 19 snaps on defense. "You know what's going on. You know the scheme. You know how things are run. I'm not thinking as much. I'm just playing.

"That was the biggest thing last year. I was hesitant at times. I was like I think I know what they're doing, but I wouldn't trust myself. Now I'm in the defense for a year and a half. I know what to expect. Now I can just play football. Let me get you lined up, see the ball snapped, see the key, go make a play."

Some positions in football require certain athletic requirements. Corners have to be able to run with receivers, pass rushers have to have long arms and the athleticism to get past left tackles and running backs have to possess speed to get to the edge of the defense. …

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