Jon Bostic hopes he found a home with Steelers, who have decisions to make at ILB
It’s not difficult to track the trend of Jon Bostic’s role in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense last season.
The veteran linebacker played a season-high 59 defensive snaps in the season opener. He played a season-low six snaps on defense in the finale.
At least Bostic appeared in all 16 of the Steelers’ games. That is something he hadn’t accomplished in a season since he was a rookie second-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2013.
The question over the offseason regarding Bostic and relatively modest accomplishments concerns whether he can remain with the same team over consecutive seasons for the first time since he spent 2013 and 2014 with the Bears.
“Obviously this is my first year here and whatnot; hopefully we can make this place a home,” Bostic said soon after the season ended. “It’s been a fun year; definitely didn’t go the way we would have planned (missing the playoffs). But that’s football. You can’t plan everything out. But I do (feel like the Steelers’ organization can be home).”
The Steelers were Bostic’s fifth NFL home over a 2 ½ -year span when he signed a two-year, $4 million contract with them last March. He purportedly was brought in to compete with Tyler Matakevich for the role replacing Ryan Shazier as the starting left inside linebacker.
But that was a position battle in name only – Bostic opened training camp holding down the spot and never was meaningfully challenged by Matakevich.
Where Bostic did get challenged for playing time was by L.J. Fort. Fort started two of the final four games of the season – and Fort’s emergence as the Steelers’ preference to play in passing situations ahead of Bostic was cemented weeks before that.
Though he remained a reliable tackler and is considered to have good sideline-to-sideline speed, Bostic struggled in coverage. And while he’s viewed as a cerebral player and solid locker-room presence, there’s no guarantee Bostic is in the Steelers’ plans for 2019.
He’ll turn 28 in May and is due a $1.8 million salary. If he’s cut, the Steelers will eat only $700,000 in “dead money.”
The Steelers are expected to infuse talent at inside linebacker over this offseason, with perhaps only starting right inside backer Vince Williams assured of staying. Fort is a free agent. Bostic and Matakevich were the only other inside linebackers on the roster or practice squad (Keith Kelsey was injured all season).
“I think we’ve really do got a good group, guys who kind of blend well with each other,” Bostic said. “A lot of different personalities in that room. But it all kind of comes together, and you see it as a defense. On defense, everybody meshes really well. I know the NFL is always changing all over the place, as much as we can kind of keep the group together moving forward will be important for us.”
Bostic graded out as “Average” overall in grading by Pro Football Focus for last season.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .