It happens every year.
Every. Single. Year.
After the NFL Draft comes and goes, fans look at the new players who will call Pittsburgh home and start their analysis of the picks. Sure, not every pick is beloved, but there are always those late round picks who become these folk heroes in people’s minds.
The next James Harrison, drafted out of Kent State, cut numerous times, sent to NFL Europe only to become a Defensive Player of the Year and all-time sack leader for the Steelers.
The next Antonio Brown, drafted out of Central Michigan, made the team as a return man and turned himself into the most prolific wide receiver the past five years unlike any the league has ever seen before.
The next Brett Keisel, drafted out of BYU in the seventh round, and while not as prolific as the aforementioned players, certainly had a big role in the most recent Steelers Super Bowl title.
The problem is for every Brett Keisel, there is a Joshua Frazier who doesn’t make the team. The fan base loves to love the underdog, and I get it. After all, there is a reason we here at BTSC give away the ‘Isaac Redman Award’ at the end of every training camp to the unheralded player who could shock the team and become a quality player.
The crux of this article is for the fans to approach the upcoming offseason workouts, and training camp, with a grain of salt. If Sutton Smith is impressive in workouts, or even at Saint Vincent College for camp, it doesn’t mean he will be the next Harrison. If Ulysees Gilbert is showing off his athleticism in drills doesn’t mean he will supplant a veteran for a job other than as a special teams player.
A perfect example of this would be the player in the image above — Tyler Matakevich.
When Matakevich was drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Temple, fans started to do some digging on him as a player. Matakevich received national honors including the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award. He was a tackling machine in college, and fans saw him as a future stud on the inside of the Steelers defense.
After Ryan Shazier was injured in 2017, many wanted to see Matakevich finally get his chance to play. What did we see? An instinctual linebacker who lacked the athleticism to play the position at the highest level.
This isn’t a cut on Matakevich, just reality.
Matakevich is a very strong special teams player, and every team in the NFL needs guys who are nothing but depth, but play a significant role on special teams.
And that is okay.
For some of these draft picks, mainly players like Gilbert and Smith, if they become special teams demons and quality depth that should be viewed as a victory for the organization. After all, special teams was how Harrison got his start with the Steelers, and after Joey Porter was ejected from a game in Cleveland he was given the chance to show what he can do as a starter.
Love these players, like you should all of the guys who don the black-and-gold, but also temper expectations. If they exceed those expectations it’s icing on the cake!
HERE WE GO STEELERS!