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: Assuming a scenario in which they are the two best options on the board, who would you prefer between Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch?
Have there been any players more frequently mocked to the Steelers this offseason than these two inside linebackers? Both Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch have at least a reasonable chance of falling to Pittsburgh’s spot in the first round, individually, though I think it would be a surprise if they were both available at the same time. One is likely to be drafted prior to that, depending upon which is preferred by the team that ends up taking an inside linebacker.
The popular belief remains that the inside linebacker position is the Steelers’ biggest weakness on the team in the long term if Jon Bostic is to be viewed as a stop-gap solution to the starting mack position, so it’s no surprise that so many are connecting the dots between these two players and Pittsburgh.
Each of them come with their question marks, however, and one on both concerns their athleticism. Evans has dealt with a groin injury and even chose not to run at his Pro Day, presumably believing that he won’t run well because of that and it would do more harm than good, perceptually and perhaps physically as well.
The Steelers are trying to replace an elite athlete in Ryan Shazier, though they don’t necessarily have to target another elite athlete. In fact it could easily end up a fool’s errand trying to find another Shazier. There simply are not many players with his skill set and abilities.
I know a lot of you like to do your own mock draft simulations. I’ve found in my runs that it’s been quite rare to have both Evans and Vander Esch fall to the Steelers, so the scenario I’m proposing is one I wouldn’t expect to actually happen. Still, I think it helps frame the evaluation to put yourself in that position. Evans or Vander Esch? You’re on the clock.