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Tyler Matakevich gets biggest role in committee replacing Vince Williams at Steelers practice

October 4, 2018

Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich defends on pass intended for the Vikings' Blake Bell during a fake punt in the third quarter Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.

It appears as if the Pittsburgh Steelers’ method for replacing Vince Williams, if needed, is by committee.

Tyler Matakevich said he got first-team reps in the base defense in place of Williams (hamstring injury) during Wednesday’s practice but L.J. Fort came in for some (passing-oriented) packages and rookie Matthew Thomas subbed each at times.

“We know we are ready,” Matakevich said. “All three of us have got to be ready to go in there and rotate and help this defense and help this team, (do) whatever we can do to get this ‘W.’”

When the Steelers (1-2-1) face the Atlanta Falcons (1-3) at Heinz Field on Sunday, they could be without their longest-tenured linebacker. Williams did not practice Wednesday after leaving this past Sunday’s loss to Baltimore during the fourth quarter.

Although Matakevich initially ran out to replace Williams, he was called back in in favor of Fort, who finished out the game at inside linebacker against the Ravens. Matakevich said was because Fort was wearing a “green-dot” helmet with a radio that allows communications from the sidelines for play-calling purposes.

Who would wear the coveted dot Sunday - assuming Williams can’t play - isn’t yet clear. The other starting inside linebacker is Jon Bostic.

“You only get two (radio helmets),” Matakevich said. “But (the coaches) will figure it out. We’ve just got to go out there and execute it. That’s what it comes down to; there’s no magic potion.”

Matakevich was an undersized seventh-round pick in 2016 after being recognized as college football’s best defensive player via the Bronco Nagurski Award at Temple. He had 493 tackles in college and finished among the top 10 in the NFL in special teams tackles each of his first two seasons. Matakevich is tied for second in the NFL in that category this season with five.

He was the top backup at inside linebacker last season but Matakevich suffered a shoulder injury during the same December game Ryan Shazier suffered his season-ending neck injury.

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