2017 Offseason Positional Review – Inside Linebacker

The season might not quite be over for another couple of days, but 30 teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, have already hit offseason mode following their elimination, either prior to or during the playoffs. Pittsburgh got quite far this year, reaching the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010

But before we get too deep into the offseason, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ roster as it appears to be shaping up as we look ahead to 2017.

As with almost every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, , so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into the offseason.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Total Positional Figure: 6

Additions: 0

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

Lawrence Timmons: Lawrence Timmons is the key name on this list as a 10-year starter and pending free agent. While his play in certain areas has slipped, he is also one of the defense’s best players, and I expect that he will be re-signed and start in 2017.

Ryan Shazier: Having a player like Ryan Shazier next to him doesn’t hurt. He had probably his best season so far in 2016, intercepting a total of five passes including the postseason and chipping in three and a half sacks and some forced fumbles on top. Stay healthier and clean up some of the missed tackles and he is an All-Pro.

Vince Williams: There is a reason that his teammates call Vince Williams Little Deebo. He works hard off the field and gives everything on it. He is a special-teams demon and has shown to be capable when he gets the call on defense. He is under contract for two more years, but I don’t know if he will get a chance to be a full-time starter.

Tyler Matakevich: I had my doubts that rookie Tyler Matakevich would make the roster, but he earned his keep by improving on special teams over the course of the season. In his limited play against the Dolphins in the regular season, he made a number of tackles. I could see a future for him as a dependable backup.

Steven Johnson: When he finally managed to get a helmet, Steven Johnson more than proved his worth on special teams. Unfortunately, he got injured. He was on a one-year deal, but I would hope that the Steelers intend to bring him back.

L.J. Fort: The best thing going for L.J. Fort is that he is still an exclusive rights free agent, so it doesn’t exactly cost him much to be brought back for another year. But he’ll probably have a much harder time making the roster this time.

Offseason Strategy: I wouldn’t imagine that the Steelers will address this position in free agency or the draft outside of retaining their own players. I have already said that I believe Timmons will return, and I would like to see Johnson back as the fifth linebacker and a special-teams staple.

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