Scouting for Steelers: The “Either-Or” Guys, Part 2
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:
I know this: If the Steelers cut rookie inside LB Tyler Matakevich it will be a mistake. Kid does everything right.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 19, 2016
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