Don’t panic: plenty of linebacker help still available for the Steelers

With a whirlwind of surprises on day two, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have to address one glaring need: inside linebacker.

The team came into the draft with a few needs. After filling two of those holes with the selections of S Terrell Edmunds and WR James Washington, the Steelers looked toward building for the future with the pick of QB Mason Rudolph and OT Chukwuma Okorafor. While some may have been surprised about neglecting the inside linebacker position, the value of the players available at that moment clarify the team went with the best player available, rather than reaching for a need. One only needs to look at the picks made thus far to realize that no players truly dedicated to the position were taken on day two, which this leaves a lot of options for the Steelers heading into the final rounds of the draft.

The rumor is that Pittsburgh was very high on Alabama LB Rashaan Evans. Once Evans, the third inside linebacker taken in the first round, was off of the board, the dropoff in talent dipped exponentially. It’s also not uncommon for linebackers, even those who groom to be starters in the league, get picked on the last day. The Steelers have found contributors in the same way, using sixth-round picks to acquire Vince Williams and Anthony Chickillo, and a seventh for reserve linebacker Tyler Matakevich.

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At this point, it appears the team is ready to roll with the notion of Jon Bostic as a starter, along with the versatility of first-round pick Terrell Edmunds (who, despite being labeled a safety, has physical traits which actually outweigh many of the top inside linebackers in this draft). There’s also the future of Ryan Shazier, who could return in 2019 and make an early round pick a wasted one if Shazier and Williams are the starters.

One more possibility could also see the return of Lawrence Timmons, who is still a free agent. Pittsburgh has made similar signings early in the week following the draft after they fail to select a coveted player at a particular position.

Regardless of those facts, this year’s NFL Draft isn’t over, and there are still some inside linebackers the team may have their eye on. Once again I’ll use the list of the top remaining players based on senior analyst Gil Brandt’s rankings of the top 150 prospects, but this time I’m also adding players who our SCU draft gurus (Zach Metkler, Tommy Jaggi, Chase Hammes) ranked by either position or their big board, as well as some players the Steelers talked to or worked out during the draft process.

With two fifth-round picks and a seventh-round pick remaining, you may see one (or more) of these names called on Saturday.

Rank Player Pos College Metkler Jaggi Hammes
77 Josey Jewel LB Iowa LB7 54 LB13
92 Shaquem Griffin LB Central Florida LB13 34 LB8
115 Micah Kiser LB Virginia LB15 LB15
120 Christian Sam LB Arizona St LB17 125 LB17
130 Skai Moore LB South Carolina LB18 134 LB19
Jermaine Carter LB Maryland
Genard Avery LB Memphis 77
Jason Cabinda LB Penn St
Jack Cichy LB Wisconsin
Shaun Dion Hamilton LB Alabama LB19 LB18
Joel Iyiegbuniwe LB Western Kentucky
Tegray Scales LB Indiana 143 LB11
Matthew Thomas LB Florida LB20 149

3 responses to “Don’t panic: plenty of linebacker help still available for the Steelers”

  1. Ed Freinstein says:

    In the aftermath of having digested why the Steelers did not select a traditional ILB in the draft and having heard only some of Colbert’s and Tomlin’s responses, I’m left wondering if Edmunds will play Shazier’s role (not suggesting he will be Ryan) the majority of the time, particularly in sub-packages. That would leave Bostic and Williams in there together only in their base alignments. Thoughts?

    • Ed, I can see the Steelers utilizing Edmunds and a couple other guys as hybrid safety/linebackers especially considering some of their opponents will be using big tight ends heavily in their play calling. I don’t think Williams and Bostic will be their only options inside, though. I tend to concur with Joe that the Steelers aren’t done developing that part of their defense (interior linebackers and sub-packages). I don’t see Timmons back on the roster, but I wouldn’t hate it if they give him another shot as long as they test him against other guys on the roster and none of the free agents look like better options. Don’t forget Keion Adams may be healthy and have a good showing at camp.

  2. Joe Kuzma says:

    I suggested similar on Friday morning 🙂

    Rather than retype, you can refer to this:

    And yes, I do believe he and even Allen project to see potential subpackage time. I also suggest that Lawrence Timmons is still floating around out here.

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