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 outside linebacker position.
Jarvis Jones: Does anybody on the team need to have a good year more than Jones, the third-year former first-round edge rusher? He has been limited to 21 games during his first two seasons due to injury and has three sacks to his name thus far. He has flashed inconsistent talent, but the team clearly needs more from him going forward.
Arthur Moats: On a per-snap basis, Moats was actually the team’s most efficient pass rusher last season, notching what is by far a career-high four sacks on a rotational basis, even if he was nominally the starter for about half of the season. He now figures to move over to the left side to replace Jason Worilds after signing a three-year deal while helping to bring Dupree along.
James Harrison: Back again at 37, Harrison has assumed the role of mentor more than ever, stepping up and becoming more of a vocal leader and bringing his fellow linebackers out with him to train, reportedly with tangible results. As for his own part, while he has been told that his snaps will be limited, it’s easier said than done getting him off the field, and I’ll just leave it at that for now.
Bud Dupree: The Steelers were quite gratified when Dupree was available at their spot in the first round, and for good reason. He is tremendously physically gifted, and there is reason to believe that he can be a much more productive professional than he was in college, having not even had a proper position coach. He should begin his career rotating with Moats, earning more snaps only with quality play in year one.
Anthony Chickillo: The second of the Steelers’ two draft picks at the position, Chickillo will be converting from defensive end, which could take time. The team has asked him to drop to a weight more suited to outside linebacker, which he appears to have already been well underway doing. He’ll need to show early fluency in dropping in coverage and playing on his feet, in addition to a penchant for special teams proficiency, in order to crack the 53-man roster as a rookie, but I have little doubt that he will at least make the practice squad.
Howard Jones: As with Lemon below, Jones is already 25 despite being a first-year player. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad, but he can be intriguing. He has good explosiveness and height for the position, and he has reportedly added significant bulk to his frame since last season, which is important for him. He’ll need to show he’s rounded out his game and can be an impact on special teams in order to stick on the 53-man roster, because there are already eight locks at linebacker.
Shawn Lemon: Lemon is an uncommon first-year player, given that he has played in Canada for a few seasons already and is already 26. He has the size to succeed, but it’s a lot easier to be impressive against CFL competition. He has reportedly grown as a football player with respect to his knowledge of the game and his role within the scheme, and has had a taste of professional success, so we’ll see where that will get him.
Shayon Green: The team’s first attempt to address the outside linebacker position, Green was signed off the scrap heap in April. Best known for overcoming two ACL years while at the University of Miami, the former 2014 undrafted free agent failed to stick with the Dolphins, and he figures to be a longshot in Pittsburgh at this point as well.
Notes: Just looking at the list above makes it pretty obvious that the Steelers focused on adding talent here. Two draft picks, a former CFL standout, a returning practice squad player, and a former Hurricane with a pair of ACL tears with solid measureables at the very least significantly ramp up the level of competition, which is needed at such a key, yet underperforming, position.