Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Monday during his pre-draft press conference that this year’s group of 3-4 outside linebacker prospects is probably the best he’s seen in 10 or 15 years. That’s certainly great news if your Steelers fan as the team could certainly use two of them this year in the draft.
After Colbert talked about the depth quality of this year’s class of outside linebackers, head coach Mike Tomlin went on to explain why they might be ready to play sooner rather than later at the NFL level.
“I think an interesting element of that discussion is there seems like there’s more and more guys playing outside linebacker in college these days,” said Tomlin. “There’s less projections, or less conversions. We talked about it for the first time a couple of years when we drafted Jarvis Jones. He’s a guy that played outside linebacker and played on two feet in college. And we talked about trends in college football, I think that’s another trend. I think you’re seeing more and more guys actually playing the 3-4 outside linebacker position in college than you did a number of years ago.”
According to an article that John Clayton of ESPN.com wrote in February, 17 NFL teams will be running 3-4 defenses in 2015, so it’s good to hear that this year’s class is deep when it comes to quality prospects.
Additionally, as Tomlin pointed out, most of these prospects are already used to standing up some, so that should speed up the time it takes to get them on the field in Pittsburgh. If you remember, new defensive coordinator Keith Butler talked quite a few times in the past when he coached the linebackers for the team about how hard it was for the tweeners to get used to seeing the game while standing up, as most of them had played defensive end in college and that usually entailed them having their hand on the ground every play. In the past, most of the tweeners also weren’t asked to drop a lot into coverage at the college level.
Colbert admitted Monday that its a pleasant coincidence that they need outside linebackers in a year that has such a deep class at the position.
“It’s an usual year,” said Colbert. “And again, some teams will look at those guys as 4-3 ends and of course we’ll look at them as linebackers, we’ve worked them out as such. It’s just better than it has been and I’m talking about some real impact-type players. So that’s encouraging.”
In case you need reminding, seven of the 29 players that the Steelers reportedly had in for pre-draft visits are outside linebacker candidates.