Matakevich fields call from Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin

Tyler Matakevich answered his phone to hear Pittsburgh Steeler coach Mike Tomlin welcoming him aboard. — Temple University photo
Tyler Matakevich answered his phone to hear Pittsburgh Steeler coach Mike Tomlin welcoming him aboard. — Temple University photo

For his entire football-playing life, Tyler Matakevich has had the ability and the opportunity to make something happen, to turn a bad situation into a good one.

Matakevich never felt less in control than when the 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker was waiting in his Stratford home for the phone to ring on Saturday.

It was day three of the NFL Draft, and the former St. Joseph of Trumbull star and Temple University standout watched the ticker tape at the bottom of his television screen read off the names of the chosen.

His wasn’t among them, as the rounds went by, fourth, fifth, sixth...

“I was down,” Matakevich said of his spirits before getting the phone call from the Pittsburgh Steelers that put his career on a new path.

“I had over one hundred family and friends with me, and it (not having his name called) was disheartening. Then my dad pulled me aside and told me that no matter what happened it would be all right.”

Matakevich had no sooner sat back down when the room got quiet. The phone was ringing.

On the phone answering his hello was Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Steelers.

“He said we look forward to having you,” Matakevich related. “We think you’ll be a perfect fit and you’ll get an opportunity to compete.”

Matakevich was the 246th selection in the draft and the 26th pick of the 7th round.

“It was unbelievable,” St. Joseph head coach Joe Della Vecchia said of the moment. “Everything was very quiet when Tyler answered the phone. He walked away and then came back and with a big grin on his face and said — “Steelers.”

Matakevich won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards as the best defensive player in the country last season. Temple’s all-time leading tackler with 493 stops, he became the first Temple defensive player to earn first-team All-America honors.

Matakevich would have had a chance to play in the NFL by going the free agent route, and had received several phone calls showing team’s interest, before he got the one call he wanted.

“Free agency was definitely an option, and getting a chance to play in the NFL was still there for me,” Matakevich said. “By the same token, the biggest thing for any college athlete is to hear your name called. To have Coach Tomlin from the Steelers give me a call is a thrill.”

"Tyler is a special player," Temple head coach Matt Ruhle said on "He will play in the NFL for many years and will make the Steelers very happy. He gets credit for being a play-maker and being very instinctual, but what people don't see is that he spends a lot of time studying film. He's a football junkie and he will fit right in in Pittsburgh."