With minicamp in the rearview mirror and training camp on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Steelers should already have all of the main components of their offseason roster in place, with all draft picks signed and no more free agents projected to be added until further evaluation.
It’s possible that a need should arise for further additions, either due to poor performance or injuries, once we reach training camp.
But for the time being, we should take a look at the depth chart that the front office has put together since the end of the 2013 season and see how well it stacks up in terms of quality and depth.
Due to the cumbersome lengths that offseason rosters can reach, we will be projecting a number or range of roster spots per position and focusing on that number of players per position, with other potential notables receiving mention below.
Position: Inside Linebacker
Projected Roster Spots: 5
Lawrence Timmons: Entering his eighth season with the team, Timmons is now the veteran leader of not just the inside linebackers, but the linebacker unit as a whole, and now one of the elder statesmen of the entire defense.
This year, he is being tasked with moving over to the buck position and taking over the play calling responsibilities. This is not completely foreign to him, as he served in this role when the Steelers went to their quarters package last year.
Ryan Shazier: Shazier is being given the green light as long as he doesn’t stumble. He has been practicing with the first-team defense since the very beginning, and it doesn’t seem very likely that he doesn’t take the field with the starters when the reps start counting. We know he’s fast and that he likes to hit, but we’re all looking forward to seeing him play within the defense for the first time.
Vince Williams: No doubt Williams was looking forward to building off of what he started last year by happenstance when he took over the starting buck linebacker duties due to injury as a rookie. He had to be led by the hand at times, and often taken off the field, due to his inexperience and the team’s lack of preparedness to play him, but now his opportunity has been seized by a rookie. Still, he doesn’t seem like the type to surrender, and in the meantime, the Steelers are pleased to have an experienced backup.
Sean Spence: Two years in the waiting, Spence, the former third-round pick, seems ready to receive the first playing time of his career in 2014. No doubt the Steelers will try to get him on the field from time to time to take advantage of his skill set. The fact that Shazier is still a rookie and may have some lapses should also give him a chance to see some time in the rotation.
Terence Garvin: For the time being, Garvin is being given the edge for the ninth linebacker spot, which should inevitably come from a deep inside linebacker group. He has already played in the defense, and has also proven to be a solid contributor on special teams, which may be all that he needs to show. Still, he will not be without competition.
Others: The Steelers drafted Jordan Zumwalt in part because he played a defense similar to what the team runs, and because he can play both inside and outside. Both would logically play in his favor. Kion Wilson has already been through the system himself, however, and Dan Molls could also enter the discussion. Arthur Moats can provide depth as well, though he seems likely to focus on outside linebacker.