1. Special teams boss
Head coach Sean McDermott loves competition at every position and Tyler Matakevich provides that on special teams. Matkevich has made his living playing on special teams the past four seasons for the Steelers. In 2019, Matakevich had 16 tackles on special teams which tied for the most in the NFL. In the last two seasons, Matakevich accounted for 657 special teams snaps. His mindset on special teams is simple.
"You see ball, you go get ball," Matakevich explained. "People always ask me, what do you do? I really just tell them I'm just running down there as fast as I can. I'm not going to let anybody block me and I'm going to beat you to the ball. That's what I love about special teams. You don't have 70 snaps out there to run down on kickoff, you only have maybe three or four so you have to make them count."
Nicknamed "Dirty Red" for his hair and work ethic, the linebacker will be an important piece to a vital phase of the game. From 2016 to 2019, Matakevich leads the NFL in solo special teams tackles with 25. No one posts these stats without being a sure tackler and elite player. Entering the offseason, this was an area McDermott wanted improvement in and Matakevich will provide that.
2. Defensive minded role player
Matakevich's primary role may be on special teams for the Bills but he can provide depth at linebacker as well. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds are key players on defense at linebacker but with the departure of Lorenzo Alexander due to retirement, that position could use depth. Matakevich explained he has watched film of Alexander in order to learn from someone who has played a role on special teams as well as on defense.
"There's so many guys that started out on special teams, playing for so many years until they finally get a chance [on defense]," Matakevich said. "I think of Lorenzo Alexander all the time. That was a guy that I would actually watch film on, like last offseason just trying to see what he would do. You look at him he was on special teams and then he gets a contract as a starting linebacker."
McDermott has said Alexander's role will need to be filled by multiple players. Matakevich gives the Bills an ability to plug and place players in that spot based off of their strengths. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier loves to throw different looks at opposing offense's based on winning one-on-one matchups. The linebacker may earn his way onto the weekly active roster because of special teams, but Frazier will likely find a place for him on defense in certain plays.
3. Fan favorite heading to Buffalo
Matakevich has ties to a current Bills player that's a fan favorite in Dion Dawkins. Dawkins and Matakevich played together at Temple. The newest Bill says he has kept in touch with Dawkins who has helped him understand what the culture is like in Buffalo as well as the fan base.
"I think just the culture and the personality of who they are," Matakevich said. "Talking with Coach McDermott it was sort of clear. I definitely was so excited to be a part of the Bills culture, Bills Mafia, everything about it. I feel like it's just hard-nosed, blue-collar and I feel like that's me head-to-toe."
Matakevich is excited to be a part of Bills Mafia and was respected by Steeler Nation during his four years playing for the Steelers. The Temple grad was such a favorite amongst fans that he earned a nod many NFL players don't receive during their time in the league. In 2019, Matakevich received 87,863 Pro Bowl fan votes which pushed him ahead of New England's Matthew Slater who is an eight-time Pro Bowler.
The special teamer unfortunately didn't make it to the Pro Bowl as the fan vote is one-third of the selection process but was overwhelmed by the support he received. This approval from Steelers fans gives Bills Mafia a good indication that Matakevich could be a new favorite.