No matter how good your team may be doing, there will always be a vocal cross-section of the fan base that, at any given point during the season, is already looking at who their favorite team should be drafting the following spring.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is certainly no exception, and, though they finally went 11-5 and won their division, even the most diehard fan could not deny that the organization has some holes to fill.
While the offense improved, and is on an upward trajectory, there are still tweaks to be made, and successors to be found. The defense has struggled, and is switching coordinators, which may call for a slightly different type of player.
So we’ll take a look at the Steelers roster position by position in the early offseason to determine how each group stacks up in terms of draft need. The next position to go under the microscope will be the inside linebackers.
Lawrence Timmons: Despite eight years of experience, Timmons will only be 29 by the time the next season starts. He has Pro Bowl talent, which was finally recognized last season. He is a tackling machine, but also possesses the ability to be a difference maker, with 28 sacks, nine interceptions, and 11 forced fumbles to his name.
Ryan Shazier: After a disappointing rookie season marred by injury, Shazier will turn his focuses into becoming a complete linebacker in the starting lineup in year two, where he can use his impressive sideline-to-sideline speed to make the defense more versatile.
Sean Spence: Entering his fourth season overall, but second as an active participant after two years of injuries. He got his feet wet in 2014—in fact, started many games, and split time as the base defense mack linebacker. Not an ideal starter, but a valuable player in a rotation at the least.
Vince Williams: A thumper in the running game, and a work in progress in coverage. He improved the nickel run defense when the Steelers inserted him in there. Split time with Spence for much of last season. better suited to back up Timmons as the buck, ultimately. Timmons moves over to the mack when Williams is in the game.
Terence Garvin: After two seasons, Garvin is looking like a special teamer, but he’s very good in that role, and that’s not something to be taken for granted. Even if he can play on defense, there are so many bodies in front of him now that it’s hard to see him getting any playing time.
Jordan Zumwalt: Zumwalt has an uphill battle ahead of him after spending his rookie year on injured reserve. He’s sixth of the depth chart at best, and Garvin has already made himself a fixture on special teams. I think he’ll basically have to show that he is Garvin with more upside in order to make the roster, but it’ll be a fun competition.
Draft Strategy: I would be baffled if the Steelers draft a pure inside linebacker in this draft. With two first-round draft picks in the starting lineup and two reserves with starting experience and a couple years in the system already, plus two promising special teamers behind them, this is the deepest position on the team, and really doesn’t need to be touched at all.