The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Should the Steelers make an extra effort to re-sign Terence Garvin with Sean Spence already gone?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had the luxury of boasting enviable inside linebacker depth over the course of the past two seasons—in fact, that has been the case for most of the past decade or two—but that depth is being tested in a major way this offseason with two of their ranks hitting free agency.
Sean Spence, their 2012 third-round draft pick, has already signed a one-year deal with the Titans. He was their primary mack linebacker reserve, starting 13 games over the course of the past two seasons, logging 90 tackles and a couple of sacks.
Terence Garvin, a former undrafted free agent, was not extended a restricted free agent tender, which has made him a free agent, and he has already taken or scheduled a couple of free agent visits within the first week of free agency, suggesting a bit more robust of a market than anticipated.
While Garvin has been a standout special teams player over the last three years—it’s how he’s kept his roster spot for that long as a fifth inside linebacker—he hasn’t played that much on defense. He began to log some time rotationally his rookie season before he was injured.
Last season, the Steelers gave him playing time in the goal line package, but after his injury, the team moved away from six linebackers and a safety to five linebackers and two safeties, and they kept that after he returned.
Spence, on the other hand, logged 270 snaps on defense, primarily as an injury replacement, but also some in a rotation. With him gone, Vince Williams moves to the top of the pecking order, but there are circumstances in which they would prefer to have a more athletic body on the field, most likely for coverage purposes.
That could be Garvin’s role, at least in the event of an injury, anyway, or in an exotic sub-package. While his actual in-game results have been a mixed bag, the Steelers have seemed to believe in his coverage ability. The idea is for the depth to not have to play much, as is the case for most positions. Garvin is a player that bears similarities to Spence, with a similar skill set, and has three years in the system. It would make sense at the right price.