The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped things up in minicamp and put an end to their spring practices, which means that we are officially into the dead zone, the slowest time of the year for football news and general activity, the time between the end of spring drills in mid-June to the opening of training camps in late July.
Before we get there, we are going to take a look at how the team’s roster has evolved since prior to the draft, the last time that we broke down the Steelers by position, and obviously a lot has changed since they have fleshed out their 90-man roster.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 7
Lawrence Timmons: I don’t think it would be unfair to say that Lawrence Timmons, though only recently having turned 30, is just a bit past his prime, even if his early performance last season was no doubt influenced by a turf toe injury suffered in training camp. But he is still a cornerstone of the defense and a rock-solid player when he tackles consistently. One can’t help but wonder, however, if he might see more snaps on the sidelines in favor of an extra defensive back, or even a linebacker rotation.
Ryan Shazier: The future of the inside linebacker position obviously rests on the shoulders of Ryan Shazier, and I choose specifically his shoulders to symbolize his checkered injury history, having missed 13 games in his first two seasons, including four last year with a shoulder injury. He seems to have all the tools to be a future Pro Bowl player as long as he can remain healthy. Sure, he still needs to clean up his tackling and settle down in coverage, but he is a defensive weapon.
Vince Williams: Vince Williams’ role this season should be interesting, heading into a contract year. With Sean Spence gone, he is the top backup linebacker, and that position has played a lot the past four seasons. What will his season be like, and what implications might it have for his future in Pittsburgh?
L.J. Fort: I list L.J. Fort next because he is the only player remaining who was on the roster last year, promoted ahead of the final regular season game, and seeing special teams action in the Divisional round. His name seems to get lost in the shuffle, but I believe he has every opportunity as those listed below of being on the 53.
Steven Johnson: Signed as a free agent from the bargain bin, Steven Johnson’s primary function appears set to be filling Terence Garvin’s shoes on special teams. But he also has defensive experience, having started some games.
Jordan Zumwalt: Entering his third year and theoretically finally healthy, Jordan Zumwalt is undoubtedly on his last legs after missing his first two seasons due to injury.
Tyler Matakevich: drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Tyler Matakevich is a pure football player, but he may not have the athleticism, as judged by game tape, to justify a roster spot, particularly when it comes to special teams. He could go to the practice squad if he fails to make the 53.
Notes and Camp Outlook: This may be the most interesting position to watch, along with tight end, in terms of jobs on the line. Fort, Johnson, Matakevich, and even Zumwalt all offer some level of intrigue, and it will be exciting to watch them rack up the preseason tackles as perhaps two of them win a job.