With the 2015 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man offseason roster is getting pretty close to set, although there are always some late movements to balance out positional numbers or replace injured or underperforming players.
Now that the rookie class in in-house and the tryout players have either come and gone or stuck around, it’s time to take one last look at the Steelers’ roster as we head into the meat of the offseason. We now turn to the defensive side of the ball, where there is a ton of depth everywhere. We continue with the inside linebacker position.
Lawrence Timmons: Entering his ninth year and still under 30, Timmons is coming off the first Pro Bowl season of his career, the first during which he served full-time as the signal-caller of the defense and the buck linebacker.
He had some early, uncharacteristic issues with his tackling that he worked out during the course of the season, and he had some lapses in coverage, but overall he was the team’s best defender, and should be expected to play even better this year with a more fortified group around him.
Ryan Shazier: Part of that group will be Shazier entering his second season, following an injury-plagued rookie campaign after being immediately installed with the starters. He has been back with the ‘ones’ at the start of OTAs this week even though he lost his job at the end of the year. That demotion, however, came largely from the practice time that he missed. He has added bulk over the course of the offseason and should be an impact player this year.
Sean Spence: Spence spent two grueling years coming back from tearing up his knee during his rookie preseason only to find himself starting for the Steelers in Shazier’s absence last season. He carved out a role for himself in base packages, but with the starter back in place, his playing time figures to be diminished.
Vince Williams: Of all the depth linebackers, Williams is, in truth, the only one within the group that has the size that the Steelers look for to man the buck linebacker spot, which makes him tremendously valuable. He got on the field early in his career due to injuries and has certainly flashed his potential, whatever his long-term viability may be. Like Spence, his playing time should diminish this season, but he will continue to be a force on special teams.
Terence Garvin: The best of the bunch on special teams, and possibly the best player from any position on the team when it comes to covering kickoffs, Garvin has carved out a role for himself over the course of the past two seasons after earning a roster spot as an undrafted rookie on a tryout basis, despite being undersize for his position. He will be difficult to unseat.
Jordan Zumwalt: A sixth-round draft pick last season, Zumwalt was dealt no favors as he missed the early portions of the offseason due to school obligations, and then dealt with injuries during training camp, being limited to action in just one preseason game, ultimately spending the year on injured reserve. He will have an uphill battle looking for a roster spot, but he should be in good position to land on the practice squad if he shows value on special teams.
Notes: The Steelers are so comfortable with their available depth at inside linebacker this year that they didn’t add a single player to the group. In fact, they moved their one early addition to the group, Reserve/Future signing Roosevelt Nix, to fullback.