Under the Radar: Three Words, Three Linebackers
You would think that after such a disappointing end to the 2018 regular season, I would need a break from everything Steelers. You would think that after coming so close to the playoffs and seeing it slip away in live time that I wouldn’t want to even see the NFL logo for months. You would think that after seeing arguably the face of the current Steelers (Antonio Brown) go AWOL and possibly play his last game in a Steelers uniform, I would find something else to occupy my free time.
You would think that. But it’s draft season.
Ah yes, draft season, our silver lining sent from the big man upstairs himself. Who doesn’t love acquiring new talent? The mere speculation every year of who the Steelers could, should, won’t, and will pick during the annual NFL Draft gets my heart rate in the red.
To those who say it’s too early for draft season, I say NAY! Nay, I say.
Now, before we get to the good stuff, I just want to say I’m well aware of Devin White, Mack Wilson, and Devin Bush. All three linebackers have been “linked” (if you want to call it that) to Pittsburgh already in mock drafts and other articles just like this. Whereas I like White and Wilson as prospects and overall improvements to the current linebacker situation on the Steelers roster, I have some “hashtag thoughts” on them.
First of all, I don’t want to bore anybody with the same three names everyone has already seen, every day.
Second of all, it’s early, but it sure sounds like White (LSU) won’t be sitting there at pick number 20. He’s the new-age linebacker the NFL looks for to a “T” if he can reach his ceiling. At the same time, 20th seems a little rich for Wilson (Alabama) and Bush (Michigan).
Pittsburgh has reached for need in the past, specifically in the first round, and it’s come back to bite them. Again, it’s very early draft season right now, and a lot can and will change. The Steelers could trade up, down, or even out of the first round. Wilson and Bush could still grow on me. White could fall. This is what makes the draft so fun.
To break from the pack, here are three linebackers I believe the Steelers need to be watching this draft season.
University of Florida (6-feet, 1-inches; 220 lbs)
Like White, Vosean Joseph fits the mold of what the latest pass-happy NFL wants at the linebacker position. He’s fast, athletic, and can play well in coverage. He’s not Ryan Shazier freaky, but he’s definitely quick, twitched-up and has got that similar frame. Most importantly he can read his keys.
A big part of what made Shazier great was his ability to read his keys. We all know about his athleticism, but Shazier was diagnosing plays at an All-Pro rate before he got hurt. Joseph could be the next best thing.
Joseph was a two-year starter at Florida with 2018 being his breakout season. The dude plays with some serious emotion and lays a boom when he hits you. Sounds like a Steeler to me. I’ve talked with our own Zach Metkler in the backrooms of SCU here, and he’s a big Joseph guy. Joseph could be that surprise in the first round this year, ala Terrell Edmunds, or more realistically could be the target for Pittsburgh in the second round.
University of Notre Dame (6-feet, 1-inches; 240 lbs)
Tackling fuel, the gas for gameday we all know and love, made famous by Adam Sandler; Te’Von Coney’s on it. The Fighting Irish’s leading tackler and heart of their defense didn’t miss a game his senior season, and it’s even harder to find him missing a tackle. Missed tackles have become a reoccurring headache in Pittsburgh over recent years. You don’t have to worry about that with Coney. His physicality is one of, if not his strongest, assets.
Te'von Coney's impressive season has only helped his draft stock (via @PFF_Steve)https://t.co/0oSloXOVzV pic.twitter.com/7s57HN028n
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 8, 2018
Coney won’t “wow” you with his athleticism like some of the other names in this 2019 class, but I wouldn’t call him Brandon Spikes or Zach Thomas. Coney can move, just not at the same level of a Devin White or Vosean Joseph (or Ryan Shazier). He’s not great in coverage, but he’s probably better than what we’ve seen in Pittsburgh lately, honestly. Coney isn’t a guy I’m saying will come in and change the defense, but he would certainly be an upgrade from Jon Bostic or Tyler Matakevich. I wouldn’t expect to see his name come off the boards until the middle rounds.
Make that five now for Blunt; named 1st team AFCA All-American, his 5th All-American award of the post season @McNeeseSports https://t.co/3beCKt4nRJ
— McNeese Football (@McNeeseFootball) December 21, 2018
McNeese State (6-feet, 1-inches; 210 lbs)
B.J. Blunt was the East-West Shrine game’s favored son. Anybody who’s anybody on “draft Twitter” watches the East-West Shrine game every year, and Blunt ran the show this time around. The converted defensive back turned linebacker not only had an impressive game, but he was standing out to everybody at the practices. Everybody including Steelers general manager, Kevin Colbert. A tweet surfaced that Kevin Colbert talked to Blunt privately for quite some time and that’s not normal to see at the ol’e EA Shrine. Scouts and “representatives” talk to the players at these smaller all-star games quite often, but not general managers.
Blunt’s certainly intriguing, obviously having superb athleticism for a linebacker who is a former defensive back; it makes him an ideal target for the Steelers. His frame is a little too small for my liking, but any team can throw 10 or 15 pounds on him without messing with his speed. He’s a late-round guy for sure, but a late-round guy who can make a 53-man roster no doubt. Linebackers like Blunt who can run and cover are being coveted by pro teams and roles are being carved out for them more and more in today’s NFL.
Final analysis: Diamond in the rough, potential through the roof.