We started this series with less than two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed four of them, those being Le’Veon Bell, Justin Hunter, Stevan Ridley, and Daniel McCullers. The only unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere has been Chris Hubbard. They resigned nine exclusive rights or restricted free agents, from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Hilton to Chris Boswell and Roosevelt Nix.
Also of note were the released of William Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden, the three most veteran players in the secondary. The team has signed three outside free agents in Jon Bostic, Morgan Burnett, and Nat Berhe. Now we examine how these moves and their pre-draft hints shape their future based on position since the offseason has begun.
Position: Inside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 7
Offseason Additions: 1
Offseason Deletions: 1
Ryan Shazier: He is technically still part of the team. Will he ever play football again? Nobody knows, even if that is what he intends. It certainly will not be this season, and they must approach the draft as though he is not there.
Vince Williams: Williams has been around the block for a long time now but is coming off his first season as a full-time starter, in which he generally held his own. His offerings as a blitzer were especially rewarding, but he is not without his faults. For a linebacker his size, he also struggled to separate from blocks.
Tyler Matakevich: Going into his third year, Matakevich has already become a fixture on special teams, but he seemingly missed out on his window to try out for a bigger role, as a shoulder injury last season prevented him from playing much on defense after Shazier went down. I doubt he would have seriously been entertained as a starting option anyway.
L.J. Fort: Having been around the block for a long time now, Fort saw his most significant playing time in Pittsburgh as a rotational linebacker at the end of last season, typically in passing situations. He ended up with a few pass deflections to show for it.
Matt Galambos: A local college product. Galambos was not initially signed after the draft, but he was the first to make it to the practice squad. He suffered an injury, which led to an opportunity for…
Keith Kelsey: Kelsey, the lone initial undrafted free agent from last season’s class who is still with the team. He and Galambos are similar players in a number of ways.
Jon Bostic: Bostic is of course the big addition here and will likely begin the season as a starter unless a rookie blows him away. Though he has struggled through injuries and regime changes in his career, I think he can be a good player if he stayed on the field.
Sean Spence: Brought back after Shazier’s injury, the reunion with Spence proved to be a bust, as he spent most of his time on the field for the Steelers like somebody who hadn’t been there for a while. Unsurprisingly, that was precisely the case.
Notes And Draft Outlook:
I think an inside linebacker is probably the odds-on favorite for the position that the Steelers will address with their first-round pick, but it all comes down to who is available. We already know the names and have talked them to death. It would be a shock if they don’t come away with a player here by the end of day two, given the number of players they’ve brought in.