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2018 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Be Forced To Find ILB Starter In Draft?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: Is the free agent pool at ILB drying up so fast that the Steelers will be forced to settle on the draft to find help?

I’m not sure if anybody really predicted that it would play out this way, but I certainly find myself awfully surprised by how the market for free agent inside linebackers has quickly evaporated over the first 48 hours of the new league year.

In a group that seemed to be without much at the top end but that had solid depth options to it, teams have been throwing themselves at the position, evidently with a large number of teams similarly needing help at the position—many of those teams late in re-signing their own players, of course.

Already off the market are the majority of the key targets that we felt the Steelers might be able to pursue, including Avery Williamson, Todd Davis, Demario Davis, Nigel Bradham, Zach Brown, and Anthony Hitchens. Even the likes of Tahir Whitehead have found homes, he finding a $6 APY deal.

There are still some names left, to be sure, but many of them are veterans with a questionable amount of tread on their tires or players who did not work out (or were only temporary solutions) with their previous teams. NaVorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson, Karlos Dansby, and of course Lawrence Timmons are a part of the former group. Kevin Minter and Jon Bostic the latter.

We’re starting to get down to the likes of Sean Spence, Steven Johnson, and Terence Garvin. In other words, it’s becoming harder to believe the Steelers are going to be able to find a solid starting option for the mack linebacker in free agency.

If we do get to that point—to be clear we are not quite there yet—it will force their hand in the draft to not only try to get that player in the first round, but to shore up other positions beforehand, particularly at safety. If they fail to find reasonable competition at both safety and inside linebacker before the draft, that will be a huge concern.

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