Anxious moments: Rookie linebacker Tyler Matakevich said he had some tense moments waiting for the 53-man roster to become final on Saturday. Matakevich, the seventh-round draft pick who was among those battling for a roster spot, was definitely breathing a sigh of relief on Monday, but knows there is still work to be done.
Meet the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers 53-man roster as of Saturday, September 3.
"It's been so stressful," said Matakevich. "Let me just tell you. I am finally relieved, but this is just the beginning. You have to earn your spot here and keep showing them you can play. As excited as I am, I am looking forward to this. You dream about this as a little kid."
Matakevich said he didn't know what to expect in the time leading up to the roster moves, and only went on the advice of inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky and his teammates.
"I had no idea what to expect," said Matakevich. "I was talking to Jerry O and some guys and they said you just have to hope for the best. I was like, what does that even mean. Friday night I didn't sleep at all. I was trying to stay busy, but there is only so much you can do.
"I was just waiting it out and finally got word that I made the final 53. I was so excited. I was so happy."
And how did he find out? Just like many others, by checking the news on Steelers.com.
"I had people calling me the whole time and I didn't want to talk to anybody," said Matakevich. "You never know what is going to happen. When I did hear, I was thrilled. To reach the goal I set when I was a kid, words can't describe it.
"It was such a relief. All of the hard work I have done since I started playing football, it was worth it."
Feeling confident: Defensive end Cam Heyward has been doing everything in his power to make sure he is healthy on Monday night when the Steelers open the season at Washington. Heyward, who suffered an ankle injury in the third preseason game at New Orleans and is listed as day-to-day by Coach Mike Tomlin, is taking advantage of a few long weeks to get ready to play.
"I was doing a little bit of cryotherapy," said Heyward. "I am just doing everything possible. I know we have some extra time and I have to take advantage.
"I am still feeling confident about playing. I am moving in the right direction."
The unit is strong: The linebacker corps took a hit when second-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree was placed on injured reserve, but it's still a unit loaded with talent and confidence.
"Across the board, inside and outside, we have plenty of depth, plenty of guys who can step up and answer the call," said Arthur Moats, who will get the starting nod on the left side in Dupree's absence. "We showed that numerous times last year and we are going to do that again this year."
Fellow outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who will start on the right side, agrees.
"Coach still expects us to go out there and do what we are supposed to do," said Jones. "The guys know who we've got. The expectation is still the expectation. We have a great group and we'll be able to hold it down until he gets back.
"We are comfortable as a defense, we understand each other, and we are communicating well. We are still a ways away from the game and have things we can clean up and get better at. We are going to continue to do that."