Steelers Show Respect, Appreciation for Veteran Saints DB Tyrann Mathieu
PITTSBURGH — New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu is only 30 years old, but he might feel a little bit older than that after hearing the way the Pittsburgh Steelers players have talked about getting to face the “Honey Badger” this week.
When Mathieu, a New Orleans native, was selected in the 2013 NFL Draft out of LSU, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Art Maulet was a senior at Bonnabel High School in nearby Kenner, Louisiana. Maulet said as he was making the transition from high school football to college and the NFL, Mathieu is one of the players that he looked up to.
“That’s one of the guys where I’m from. Being LSU guy, Pro Bowl guy in the a league, a guy that I looked up to. It’s crazy that I’m going to be playing against him. Hopefully, I can make more plays than him on Sunday.”
Of course, it doesn’t take a close connection to Mathieu’s New Orleans roots to appreciate what the four-time All-Pro has done at the safety position, especially considering his 5-foot-9 stature.
Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett was a freshman two-way player for Ocean Township, New Jersey when Mathieu broke into the NFL, and Pickett said he remembers watching his film to help get better on the defensive side of the ball.
“I used to watch his tape before high school games,” Pickett said. “The defensive side, just the swag he plays with. He plays with an edge, and I liked watching that in high school when I used to play some corner and safety. So, definitely coming full circle now facing off against him on Sunday.”
Even players that didn’t look up to Mathieu as youngsters can appreciate the game of the great. This will be the third time in two years the Steelers will have played against him, and Steelers safety Tre Norwood said he’s picked up some things from watching the film of those games.
“A guy like that, his resumé speaks for itself,” Norwood said. “You can always learn things. Always be yourself, but you can always learn things to apply to your game.”
Interestingly, Mathieu nearly became a member of the Steelers this offseason. Head coach Mike Tomlin reached out to him when Mathieu was a free agent, but the former All-Pro eventually signed with his hometown squad, while the Steelers added Damontae Kazee. Kazee is expected to make his 2022 debut this week after a preseason forearm injury.