Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans were interested in potential edge rusher Carl Lawson at some point in the 2017 NFL Draft. Though I do believe I would revisit my decision after the fact, I had him mocked to Pittsburgh in the second round, for full disclosure, and by way of example.
Profiling to be somewhat reminiscent in build—though not nearly as strong—to James Harrison, many wanted to connect the dots there and find an heir apparent. The Steelers instead looked to that role in the first round, and Lawson ultimately slipped quite a bit, all the way into the fourth round, in fact.
To the Cincinnati Bengals. And many Steelers fans gnashing their teeth over Pittsburgh’s draft have simultaneously praised the Bengals for their work in adding talent over the span of their draft choices, comparing and contrasting to what they would have liked their own team to have done.
It is by that token that I felt it would be notable to provide an update on Lawson, whom the Bengals have actually been working as a Sam linebacker during rookie minicamp, which appears to be more than just an experiment. Team scribe Geoff Hobson writes that “Defensive Coordinator Paul Geunther said the plan is to put him at backer half the time and at pass rusher, most likely on the edge, half the time”.
Following Cincinnati’s first day of rookie minicamp, Head Coach Marvin Lewis also fielded a question about the Bengals’ usage of Lawson at linebacker. “He’s a linebacker”, the head coach answered. “He’s playing Sam linebacker. He had a good first day”.
It should go without saying that anything that happens this early in the process is very, very much subject to change, but it is interesting to see the Bengals working the edge rusher at the linebacker position—which, fittingly, is also what they did with Harrison when they had him for one season.
Not only did they give the 6’2”, 261-pounder a role at the second level of the defense, they also gave him the jersey number of veteran Rey Maualuga, whom they released during the offseason after they signed Kevin Minter in free agency.
“This is my job”, Lawson said, “and what they want, and I’ll work to end up being the best at what I do”, adding, “I’m ready to work”.
It will be interesting to see how long this look actually sticks. Is it conceivable that they could really go into the season intending to use him as a versatile defender that contributes—perhaps even starts—at the linebacker level while moving to the edge to rush the passer in obvious passing situations?
It goes without saying that he obviously needs to make the team first before any of that can happen, but I’m sure there are a number of Steelers fans who will be interested to track the progress of this player as his career develops.