With ‘new wing,’ Matakevich blocking out doubters

Steelers LB feeling good after offseason shoulder surgery

Josh Rowntree
July 30, 2018 - 2:19 pm
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich (44) participates in drills during minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich was put in a tough spot on December 4 of last year. 

His teammate, Ryan Shazier, was carted off the Cincinnati turf with a season-ending, and possibly career-ending, spine injury. Matakevich, dealing with a serious shoulder injury himself, would have to help take the place of a player having a career season. 

“What happened to him, it was terrible,” Matakevich said Monday at Saint Vincent College. “But that was an opportunity that not many guys get, to step in and really step up.

“But, unfortunately, with (my own) injury, that was a little setback. So, it was definitely frustrating. But, this offseason, I got a new wing, all healed up and I’m just ready to go.”

With a torn labrum in his left shoulder, even lifting his arm seemed to appear impossible at times for Matakevich. 

“I definitely felt like it held me back. Playing more than half the year, the whole year pretty much, with one arm, it’s a little hard. It’s hard enough with two, but with one, it’s definitely a little harder.”

Pittsburgh is going to need him in 2018. Shazier isn’t coming back, at least not this season. The team has veteran Vince Williams on the inside and journeyman Jon Bostic was brought in during free agency. 

Matakevich is looking at the lack of offseason moves as a sign of trust in his abilities.

“Whether they did or not, I would have the same mentality,” he said. “How everything unfolded, seeing that, it definitely gives you a little boost of confidence knowing that they believe in you too. It allows you to go out there and play and don’t think about all that nonsense.”

Nonsense is something Matakevich, nicknamed “Dirty Red” for his distinguishable red hair and beard, has had to deal with for some time. At 6’1”, 229 pounds, he is undersized for his position. It is, without question, why it took until the seventh round of the 2016 Draft for him to be selected.

“You can’t pay any attention to that,” he said. “That’s just outside noise. You’ve just got to block it out. If you look at that stuff, people are going to be doubting you your whole life.”

Following a decorated collegiate career at Temple in which he was a consensus All-American, won the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award, Matakevich has made 43 tackles over the last two seasons. Much of his playing time has come via special teams. 

“Whatever my role is, to help this team out, I’m willing to do it,” he said. “Whether it’s being on every special teams, getting down there on all three downs at linebacker, whatever it is, I’m willing to do it.”

While Shazier is irreplaceable with the current group, knowing he won’t be playing this year gives the Steelers a chance to make adjustments now.

“It’s huge,” Matakevich added. “This is a great time. It’s culture building time. You come in, you really set a foundation for what we’re going to expect in the season. So, right now, this time is crucial to get those reps, not only mentally but physically.”

Hear all of what Matakevich had to say below.