The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense relied a great deal upon the consistent availability of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line. Without much reliability behind those two, Kevin Colbert reached outside the organization in free agency to acquire Ricardo Matthews to add to the rotation.
Mathews knows he won't be competing for a starting spot, so what the Steelers are looking for from him is just enough to be disruptive. He showed that he could be just that last Friday night against the Detroit Lions. We take a look at some of his plays early in the game.
Pressure from Mathews results in pick-6 :
This was the play that most people will remember from Mathews last week. He shoots the gap on the outside shoulder of the guard, moving too fast for the guard to recognize what's happening and has a free lane on the quarterback. Linemen are trained to protect their inside shoulder first and Matthews was quick enough to beat the guard from returning after checking for an interior rusher.
Despite the excitement of this play, what struck me as problematic in this play was that he didn't really have to use any pass rush moves to get to the quarterback and still ended up missing his target. While his effort ultimately forced the poor decision from the quarterback, this was not the play that impressed us the most in the film room.
Matthews stunts and tips pass
This was the play that made us smile the most here in the film room when it came to studying Mathews. He stunts down the line occupying the center an right guard just long enough for Javon Hargrave to get around and after the quarterback, but sticks with the play long enough to tip the pass and force the incomplete pass. These are the effort plays you want to see from a guy getting spell reps on the defensive line.
Looking for more pass rush moves
This play was not really a highlight, but more of an observation of what we saw in general from Mathews. He could shoot the gap and hustle to stick with plays, but you see the reason he's not a starter in the NFL in that he doesn't have a solid variety of moves in his repertoire despite being a veteran entering his seventh year.
Watch for more hustle plays
While Mathews is not lighting everything up, he certainly looks to be an adequate player for the rotation of defensive linemen which Pittsburgh could use in 2016. As the preseason rolls along, keep an eye out for his highlights to come from hustle efforts as he sticks with plays rather than using great technique or overpowering opponents.