Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Matakevich Might Get His First Start Likely Will Replace Injured Williams at Inside Linebacker Likely to Be at Linebacker in Place of Injured Williams

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Matakevich Might Get His First Start Likely Will Replace Injured Williams at Inside Linebacker Likely to Be at Linebacker in Place of Injured Williams

Article excerpt

Tyler Matakevich hasn't even made his first NFL start yet and already someone is trying to work a marketing deal for him.

"The Dirty Red Zone in Heinz Field, it's for real." joked Jack Kearney, the chief of security of the Steelers, who wandered upon an interview with Matakevich after practice Thursday.

All Matakevich could do was laugh. "Jack has been saying it," he said. "He's like, 'We're going to run with it.' "

Matakevich, who received the nickname "Dirty Red" from coach Mike Tomlin as a rookie last season, might get the first start of his career Sunday afternoon when the Steelers play host to the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field.

Starting inside linebacker Vince Williams did not practice for a second consecutive day because of a hip injury against the Chiefs. Matakevich, a seventh-round pick last year who overcame the odds to make the roster, is now in position to fulfill a lifelong dream.

"It would be an unbelievable experience," Matakevich said.

"Ever since you were a little kid you worked to get here. And finally, to have that opportunity, whether it happens or not, it's been such a humbling experience. But gosh, if it really happens, I'll definitely be excited."

Matakevich earned his keep as a core special teams player as a rookie, but he earned the top backup job at both inside linebacker positions with an impressive training camp. Because of injuries that Williams and Ryan Shazier had in camp, Matakevich got to take the majority of his training camp reps with the starting defense.

Even though he almost went undrafted - he was the 246th of 253 selections - Matakevich entered the NFL with excellent credentials. Matakevich earned All-America honors, won the Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski awards, which go to the best defensive player in college, and set the record for most tackles in Temple football history.

"I knew Tyler was going to be good," Shazier said. "You can't win that award if you're not a good football player.

"The last few years, you see how active he is in the passing game and the running game. He's just a very effective player and always in the right position. …

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