While Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert might not think that this year’s crop of off-the-ball linebackers is all that rich in impactful talent, he does like the depth of the 3-4 outside linebackers in this year’s draft class.
“The outside linebacker [group] is deeper,” Colbert said Wednesday in Indianapolis during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I mean, there’s some kids that stand up and there are several of the classic tweeners that we have to project those guys to be able to play in our defense. Now, history has been with us, the Jason Gildons and the Joey Porters and LaMarr Woodleys, those have worked out. We drafted a kid Jarvis Jones that played up and was a dominant player in a 34 defense at Georgia and it didn’t transfer to the NFL. T.J. [Watt] has for his first year.”
Even though the Steelers used their first-round draft pick last year on an outside linebacker in T.J. Watt and a seventh-round selection on another player at that position in Keion Adams, they could certainly stand to draft yet another one this year in the first four rounds and especially if they decide against picking up the fifth-year option on Bud Dupree later this offseason.
Two of the five Steelers outside linebackers that spent most of the 2017 season on the team’s 53-man roster, James Harrison and Arthur Moats, won’t be back in 2018 as the former is already gone and the latter isn’t expected to be re-signed. Adams, by the way, spent his rookie season on the team’s Reserve/Injured list due to a shoulder injury so 2018 will essentially be his first year in the NFL. Additionally, while Anthony Chickillo is expected to be retained this offseason as a restricted free agent, he’s merely a backup.
In short, I will be surprised if the Steelers don’t draft another edge-rusher in the first four rounds of this year’s draft. According to Colbert, there should be several decent prospects to choose from even during the second day of the draft.
“There’s a group, collectively, of the undersized defensive ends and enough standup backers that I think it’s a quality group,” Colbert said.