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
Jarvis Jones: Everybody knows Jarvis Jones is entering a critical season, including Jones. There are so many things that he needs to show that he hasn’t yet that will have a tremendous impact on his future. Can he be an every-down player? Can he get at least seven or so sacks in a season? If not, he will probably be looking for work next March.
Bud Dupree: The future of the position very much rests on the shoulders of Bud Dupree, their first-round pick last year. He entered the starting lineup late in the year and produced four sacks, but he still has a good bit of work to do, starting with his conditioning.
James Harrison: James Harrison chose to come back to complete his two-year contract, but I have a hard time imagining that he will log as many snaps this year as he did last year. He was still pretty productive last year, and stout in the run game, however, and will be an integral part of their pass-rushing fabric.
Arthur Moats: The primary starter at left outside linebacker last year, Arthur Moats will likely see his snap count drop significantly this year playing behind Dupree. At least that is how it should be if Dupree develops the way the Steelers need him to.
Anthony Chickillo: Waiting in the wings is second-year Anthony Chickillo, who made a bit of an impact on special teams, but is hoping to ply his craft on defense this season. He likely will not crack the rotation this year with four players ahead of him, but Harrison and Jones could both be gone after this year.
Travis Feeney: A highly athletic sixth-round pick, Travis Feeney is an interesting prospect, but unfortunately with a history of shoulder injuries. Fairly undersized, it will be interesting to see where he fits in during training camp.
Mike Reilly: A college defensive end, Mike Reilly was originally a 2015 undrafted free agent of the Browns, but did not make the roster. He came to the Steelers in a bit of a roundabout way, as noted below.
Notes and Camp Outlook: Tyriq McCord was signed as a rookie undrafted free agent, but was waived with an injury. Replaced by Kevin Anderson, he, too, was injured and released, signing Reilly to take his place.
While Jones and Dupree will likely start, as they did by the end of the year, camp and the preseason will likely play a big role in determining what sort of rotation the Steelers might employ this year. They rotated pretty heavily last year, but if the starters can take on a bigger role, the team will be better for it.