Tyler Matakevich, LB
School: Temple | Conference: AAC
College Experience: Senior | Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 238 lbs.
Projected Draft Round: 3rd - 4th | Actual: 7th Round (246th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Tyler Matakevich will not wow you with his size, 40 yard dash, vertical jump, or short shuttle time. What he will impress you with is his ability to play the game of football pretty damn well. An unheralded prospect out of high school, Matakevich started at linebacker for the Temple Owls as a true freshman and recorded 101 tackles, the youngest player to attain that feat in school history. He followed that up with three more 100+ tackle seasons, becoming only the 7th player in FBS history to achieve four straight 100+ tackle seasons. As a senior, he won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's most outstanding college linebacker, won AAC Defensive Player of the Year, led the nation in interceptions by a linebacker with 5, and set career highs in tackles-for-loss and sacks with 15.5 and 4.5, respectively. Yeah, I think he can play football alright.
Matakevich credits his success on the field in spite of his athletic limitations to hard work and dedication. "I now better understand the prep that you need on Saturdays, it takes so much time," he said in an interview with NFLDraftScout.com. "Most don't see all the work, just the results. They don't see the work during the week, the practice, the time in the film room. The hard work is the biggest thing I've learned." Another aspect of the Matakevich package is his leadership by example. "Mat is the heart and soul of that defense, everything goes through him," an NFC North executive said. "That's something that shows up on film and during practice. He knows his physical limitations, but works like the devil to max out all of his senses. You don't have as much production as he has just by accident."
The Steelers drafted Matakevich in the 7th round, later than many had projected him. He's a good football player and I think he will surpass his draft status to become a fan favorite in due time. Fun fact: NFL.com's draft profiles retroactively change their draft grades, write-ups, and draft projections to reflect the actual draft/popular opinion. They had a much higher grade on Matakevich leading up to the draft, and changed it to '7th Round - Priority FA' after the draft. Bunch of lames.
So many scouts slept on @44_Matakevich, dude is a beast— B.L.M 23 (@bmatz23) June 11, 2016
Tyler Matakevich leaves a runner punching the ground in disgust after a huge tackle for loss (at UMass, 2015) https://t.co/X7gZ4rhONs— Acres of Cherries (@acresofcherries) June 9, 2016
Tyler Matakevich's second freakish interception of the game seals it for Temple https://t.co/BvpyRxkW5H— Acres of Cherries (@acresofcherries) June 8, 2016
tyler matakevich's play recognition is crazy ✋ he's going be good for us— Stebie Tre (@ThottyPippen_) June 2, 2016
How He Makes the Steelers Better and Creates Problems for the Redskins
Matakevich was a good pick for the Steelers in what was somewhat of a mixed draft class for them. They desperately need to bring young talent into an aging and depleted defense. That being said, it's very unlikely we'll see Matakevich on the field against our Washington Redskins Week 1. As a 7th-round pick, he'll probably start off on the special teams unit given his work ethic, tackling ability, and hustle.
In the future, it's feasible Matakevich could grow into a starting player and take over for the aging middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Steelers fans compare "Dirty Red", as he's now called, to Jerry Olsavsky, a Steelers linebacker for 7 years in the early 90's who was renowned for his grit and work ethic despite being undersized. Olsavsky is now the inside linebackers coach for the Steelers.