The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Following the loss of Lawrence Timmons, will a free agent acquisition start the season at inside linebacker?
It’s been a decade since the Steelers have contemplated their future without veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who has been a mainstay in the starting lineup for the past eight seasons. While he has only been named to one Pro Bowl, his play through the early period of his starting role deserved at least one or two more, in my own opinion and in the opinion of his coaches—though neither party is exactly biased.
But the team now faces a future without him after the soon to be 31-year-old linebacker signed a two-year contract with the Dolphins worth $12 million, with nearly all of it guaranteed. The Steelers were interested in keeping him, but were unwilling to match that sort of guarantee and were not pressing hard to get into a bidding war for him.
While it is disappointing that the former first-round pick—and the first draft selection of this regime—will not play his entire career with the Steelers, it hasn’t exactly been an uncommon phenomenon in the recent past, and they typically have had somebody in the pipeline.
They do have Vince Williams, but the Steelers have shown yesterday that they are not simply going to give him the starting job, as they had one inside linebacker in for a visit, while another—substantially more high-profile, in Dont’a Hightower—is visiting soon.
It goes without saying that Hightower will be costly, and given that, unlikely to sign, but the fact that the Steelers have already looked at other options suggests that they are not done. Recall last season they brought in Ryan Harris to compete with a relative unknown as a starter in Alejandro Villanueva.
Failing Hightower, there are other free agent options, as Dave Bryan has talked about, and the team seems very interested at the moment at the very least to create competition. So that raises the question posed: when the regular season starts, will there be a free agent in Timmons’ place?