Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers exhausted their first-round selection in the NFL Draft on former University of Georgia pass rusher Jarvis Jones. To say that Jones disappointed in his rookie season is an understatement, but the fact that he was inserted as a starter so early speaks louder in regards to the Steelers’ linebacker situation.
When the team let James Harrison leave to eventually sign with the Cincinnati Bengals, the job was Jones’ for the taking. No one knew that LaMarr Woodley would eventually fade into the landscape and it would be Jones and Jason Worilds anchoring the outside of the once-vaunted Steelers’ 3-4 defense.
Some say that inside linebacker is a huge need for the team, but last season saw rookies Vince Williams and Terence Garvin anchor the inside linebacker position alongside Lawrence Timmons. There is depth on the inside, and talks that Sean Spence might be able to return to the playing field after a gruesome knee injury two years ago would only help that situation.
Woodley is gone, Harrison is a free agent and the Steelers are staring at a need for outside linebackers. The Steelers signed free agent Arthur Moats, who can play inside and outside linebacker, but the need for quality outside pass rushing depth is a red flag for a Steelers organization that is preparing for the draft just a few days away.
The issue the Steelers are facing is that compared to other team needs, outside linebacker doesn’t sit atop the list. When the Steelers are used to drafting linebackers to be groomed and ready to play in a few years, they are now staring at the reality of players who need to be NFL-ready from the start.
Even though the Steelers will most likely draft other positions ahead of outside linebacker, there are still players in this draft who fit the Steelers’ description of a 3-4 outside linebacker. In a scheme that relies on the pass rush and outside pressure to succeed, the Steelers will need to find players who can help this team at the outside linebacker position, or else the defense will continue to struggle.