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This & That: Pride, Deebo & old-time football

Posted Sep 22, 2017

Hitting on all the topics as the Steelers prepare to take on the Chicago Bears.

Something special: Two games. Two huge plays by Tyler Matakevich on special teams.

If it’s something that is going to become a habit, it’s definitely a good habit to have for the Steelers.

In the Steelers opener against the Browns Matakevich blocked a punt that Anthony Chickillo recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

Last week Matakevich was spot on when the Vikings attempted a fake punt, and he broke up punter Ryan Quigley’s pass to Blake Bell, giving the Steelers great field position at the Vikings 36-yard line. Matakevich said he noticed he wasn’t being blocked, and for the first time Bell was the guy who lined up against him.

“It was good fundamentals by Tyler and good planning and coaching by (special teams coordinator) Danny Smith,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “You never can anticipate those types of things. You know that they exist, but being fundamentally sound collectively, and that’s why I mentioned Danny Smith, but also being fundamentally sound individually, and that’s why Tyler deserved credit, allows you to stop those plays.” 

Matakevich, or ‘Dirty Red’ as Tomlin and his teammates call him, said contributing to wins is what he sets out to do every week.

“It’s huge. You want to contribute,” said Matakevich. “You want to make plays. You want to do it on defense, you want to do it on offense. But special teams is just as important. To be able to make an impact play right there to help our team get another possession is huge and I take a lot of pride in that.”

And half the fun is seeing the reaction from Smith, who it’s safe to say gets a bit fired up on the sidelines.

“It’s fun to watch him on the sidelines,” said Matakevich. “You have to care and have a passion for it. He has so much passion for the game of football. He takes a lot of pride in it. That’s how you have to take this game. I think a lot of guys do that.

“It’s about going out there and giving it everything you have and trying to make a play. I think that’s what you have to do. You have to have the want to go make every play, the will to go do it, focus and enjoy it while you are doing it.” 

Doing what’s asked: Linebacker James Harrison said he knew there was a ‘possibility’ he wouldn’t play last week against the Browns, but it’s still the first time he can remember in a long time not seeing any snaps when he was healthy.

“I have had games where I didn’t play much, but I don’t think not at all in a long time,” said Harrison.

Harrison, who said that he feels fine, spoke with Coach Mike Tomlin, and is moving forward with the plan that is asked of him.

“We’ve talked, whatever he told you all that’s what it is, and I’m just doing what I’m asked,” said Harrison. “I’m doing what I’m asked.” 

Pump up the volume: It’s not a new topic. Not by a long shot. So when you hear Ryan Shazier talk about defensive communication, you start to think back to some of the problems from last season. Think again.

Shazier said the communication lines have been wide open with the defense, and they have even kicked up the volume out on the field.

“I might call the play, and let everybody know what we are getting into, but once I call the play everyone starts communicating, telling people slide over, get in better alignment, we might try this,” said Shazier. “It’s a little louder pre-snap than it used to be. It’s definitely a lot louder. Guys are aware of what might happen before they even line up in formation.”

The Steelers have some new faces on defense this year, and as a result the communication, and preparation is even more vital.

“We communicate really well and it allows guys to understand what we need to get into,” said Shazier. “We have to do a really good job in walk-thru and make sure everybody understands what we want to get into so when we get into certain personnel, or go against certain formations, guys know what to line up in.”

Stacking wins: Winning early, and of course often, is a key in the NFL. The Steelers 2-0 start gives them a chance to stack those early wins, something that could potentially pay big dividends when the season starts to wind down.

“It very big,” said Cameron Heyward. “Once you get to November and December, it’s hard to come by wins. You want to win games now, that way you are not trying to look back and rise up the boards late.”

He said it: Shazier on playing in Soldier Field:
“I am excited. Playing in Solider Field is like a hallmark of the NFL. It’s old-time football. I want to go out there and give it everything I have.”

Happy Friday:

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