Scouting for Steelers: The “Either-Or” Guys, Part 2

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Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

In Part 1 I named four pairs of “either-or” guys for my final roster prediction. Today I’m going to address what may be the most difficult pair, that of Tyler Matakevich or Steven Johnson. Honestly, I don’t want to see either of them go.

 

Matakevich is one of the guys I think would either not make it to the practice squad or would be poached from it.

Steven Johnson brings a lot to the table in terms of experience. Both of them seem to be fine human beings.

But for them both to make the 53-man roster there would almost certainly have to be a serious injury to someone the defense can ill afford to lose. So let’s look at what they did in Game Three, at New Orleans.

First, let’s just look at how much they played:

  • Steven Johnson: 9 defensive snaps, 10 ST snaps
  • Tyler Matakevich: 9 defensive snaps, 9 ST snaps

So why did Matakevich get one less special teams snap than Johnson? I certainly don’t know, but it’s difficult to imagine it would matter. Although Johnson declared he was gunning for a starter role, the truth is, if he sticks, special teams will be the bulk of his work, unless there is not just one but several injuries to starters.

Matakevich, being a seventh round pick, is presumably more upfront about his desire to make the team in whatever way he can. And he is certainly making a case. His name has been mentioned more than once at each preseason game by the broadcast crew. Occasionally it is for something regrettable, such as the illegal block above the waist penalty he incurred on special teams in the game vs. the Eagles. But mostly it is to note a tackle (sometimes a tackle for loss,) which is generally accompanied by some of his crazier stats at Temple (such as almost 500 tackles.)

Oddly, the game against the Saints didn’t stand out in the same way that his 5-tackle effort (in 16 snaps) did the previous week. He was credited with a single assist, while Steven Johnson had two solo tackles. And curiously, both men had an interception (of the third-string quarterback.) Johnson’ was first, Matakevich’s in the following series.

Neither played on the defense until 4:57 in the fourth quarter, as far as I can tell. So let’s look at those three series.

4:57 The two guys in question were lined up in the middle (Johnson) and right end (Matakevich) behind a four-man front. The first play was a 4-yard pass to a running back. Both had dropped into coverage. Johnson came streaking across the field and dropped him two yards from where the RB caught the ball. Matakevich was headed that way, but would have been too late had Johnson not taken him out.

4:32 This play began with the same three guys (DB Kevin White was the third) lined up, but this time Matakevich and White were flipped. Again they dropped into coverage. Johnson’s interception came on a perfectly thrown ball by the Saints’ QB (Grayson), or at least it was perfectly thrown if you assume Johnson was the intended receiver. He accepted the offering, although he fell down, so he didn’t get much more out of it. (He did roll the correct direction, however.)

3:02  Apparently Grayson thought the previous dumpoff to the running back was so successful, he did it again. This time the lineup was Johnson on the left end, Matakevich in the middle, and Jordan Dangerfield on the right end. The RB ran straight forward and caught the ball. He got about three yards before Johnson and Matakevich converged on him. (Johnson got the credit.) The RB got 3 yards extra.

2:40 The QB ran a hurry-up no huddle, so it was the same lineup, but the throw was near the right sideline and neither had any influence. It was incomplete because Shabazz knocked it away.

2:38 Similar lineup with Matakevich on the left, Johnson in the middle, and a safety on the right. The receiver was tackled quickly, but not before the receiver got first down yardage, by Matakevich and another DB.

2:20 Grayson tried another RB screen, but the pass was underthrown (really?) and fell incomplete. Same lineup as before.

2:15  Same lineup. As Grayson looked for an open receiver he was being pressured by Travis Feeney. He threw another perfect pass, once again assuming Tyler Matakevich was the intended receiver. Tyler kept his head (and his footing) and got seven more yards.

:29 Once again Matakevich is on the left, Johnson in the middle, and a DB on the right. The QB hands the ball off. This is uncomfortably successful, as he gains 14 yards. This is due to an absolutely enormous hole opened up by the offensive line. I could have run through it, although I might not have gotten 14 yards. Both Johnson and Matakevich managed to shed their blockers and chase him down, but the runner was actually felled by Jordan Dangerfield, who had a couple of big hits in the game, at least one of which should have been flagged, quite honestly. The back took his time about getting up, as well he might.

:19  Same lineup, but spread out and closer to the front four. This time the runner only got four yards. That was the end of the game.

So what does this tell us? These guys are a pretty effective pairing, at least against other backups. As to which one they should keep, if you were to only go by this game, I suppose you would say Steven Johnson, by a nose.

Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette got in on the discussion:

If you click the link to the tweet, the discussion, which inculdes a lot of the local writers, is fascinating. Once again I’m glad it isn’t me making the decisions…

to be continued

 

 

 

 

5 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Before seeing him in games, I would have thought that Matakevich would have been lucky to make the PS. Now I fear the possibility of losing him. He needs a minor injury so he can spend a season working on his athleticism on the IR. He appears to already have the mindset and understanding of the game. It is not too fast for him.

    Has Tomlin giving Johnson a nickname as well? Is it a good one? If not then I feel sorry for Johnson but there are other teams in the league that could use him.

    I loved the mandatory demand to cut Landry in the Dulac tweet thread. I would have a greed after the Eagles game but not after the Saints game. It was amazing to see how well he performed when with the ones. He may not be a great QB but I think he can be a game manager if he is on a strong team.

    Like

    • Agree with you, and think your IR-able injury is a great solution. I’m pretty sure that’s the sort Jerald Hawkins has…

      It is amazing how much better Landry jones looked. I’m guessing it’s a lot easier when the other guys you’re playing with know what they are doing…

      Like

  • Tyler! Tyler! Tyler! It’s always good to have a player that can, you know, tackle, which is sadly becoming a lost art. With all the short passes in the NFL these days that one on one stop has become crucial.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I could probably write a whole post on why I think they’re going to keep Dirty Red. However, because the situation will resolve itself by Saturday afternoon I will just mention a couple of reasons why I believe the Steelers won’t cut him, beyond all the plays and quality work Tyler Matakevich has shown this preseason.

    1) Because of the public high phrase from his position coach and his head coach, other teams will now take a closer look at him if the Steelers put him on waivers, especially since Pittsburgh is known for identifying and developing linebackers. I believe I’ve heard the Steelers described as a linebacker factory. It’s true that everyone including the Steelers did not select him until the seventh round of the draft. But the fact remains that the Steelers did draft him.

    2) Because Matakevich works very hard to study tape so he can read the offense’s intentions as they lineup for a play, I think the Steelers believe he has a whole lot of football savvy ‘above the neck’. The coaches know about where Johnson’s ceiling is, and where Fort’s ceiling probably is, but they may not be sure just how high up Matakevich’s ceiling is, which may not even be in sight yet. And that is why I think they will keep him amongst the 53 chosen ones. He could be a real long-time keeper, another low round draft pick which turns out very, very well for the team.

    That said, now that I’ve made an actual prediction they’ll probably release him, nobody will claim him, and he’ll make it to the practice squad.

    Like

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