If things go like most of us think they will during the offseason the Pittsburgh Steelers will select an inside linebacker during the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. That expectation aside, it’s not unreasonable to think that general manager Kevin Colbert will also try to address that position during the few weeks of the free agent signing period that will take place prior to the annual college selection process.
Currently, the Steelers have just a handful of inside linebackers under contract for the 2018 season and they are Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, and Keith Kelsey. Shazier, of course, is still in the process of battling back from the serious spine injury he suffered last season and thus the team can’t count on him being able to return just yet. Williams, of course, is the team’s other starter and best suited to play the strong-side position and the same goes positionally for Matakevich. As for Fort, who is probably best suited to play the weak-side position, Shazier’s position, he’s merely a backup as is Kelsey, a former undrafted free agent who spent his rookie season on the team’s practice squad.
While Colbert will likely look for a bargain weak-side inside linebacker during the early stage of free agency, there really aren’t too many overly attractive options soon to be on the market as we sit here in late January. In fact, Zach Brown, Avery Williamson, Demario Davis and Tahir Whitehead might just be the top under 30 prospects as we sit here today. Christian Jones can probably be added to that list with some persuasion.
While the Steelers don’t usually go the over-30 route when it comes to defensive free agents, they might just have to this offseason. While Paul Posluszny might be an attractive older free agent a few weeks from now, he’s best-suited to play on the strong-side at this point in his career. NaVorro Bowman, who will turn 30 in May, could be attractive if the price is right but he figures to have some demand for his services in the coming months.
A few veteran inside linebackers might wind up being salary cap causalities in the near future with former Steelers starter Lawrence Timmons a possibility after just one season with the Miami Dolphins. Veteran Sean Lee, a Pittsburgh native and Penn State product, might also be looking for work in the next few months if the Dallas Cowboys decide to move on from him and his scheduled 2018 base salary of $7 million.
These are just a few potential names that Colbert might ultimately have his eye on during the early portion of the offseason and personally, I will be surprised if the Steelers don’t sign a veteran weak-side free agent inside linebacker ahead of the draft even though the team will still likely address the position at some point during the early rounds. After all, it’s Colbert’s modus operandi to do that when it comes to highly regarded draft needs.