NFL Draft

Study: What Pittsburgh Looks For In Inside Linebackers

We are back to do one of my favorite, and hopefully useful, studies during the season. Last year, we began to look at the type of prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers gravitated towards in each draft under the Tomlin/Colbert umbrella. We’ll reevaluate this year, tweak the numbers, and do the same. Like last year, we’ll list all the inside/off ball linebackers and see who matches up.

Couple of caveats you need to know before we start this process. Any timed event, like the 40 or short shuttle, I take from the Combine only. Pro Day times can, and often are, better, but where they come from is unreliable and they’re all hand-timed, meaning you know every team has a different number. At the Combine, things are a little more reliable, even if teams do hand-time too. I will use the better Pro Day number for untimed events, like bench press or vertical. That’s the process we began with last year and we’ll stick with it.

Our cutoff for this year will be 75% of the picks have to meet the criteria. That creates the Steelers’ threshold. So if 7 of 10 players meet “X,” we can’t use it. If 8 of 10 do, that can be our threshold. And I do leave some breathing room, normally. If the threshold for the broad is 10’1, I’ll round it down to 10 foot even. Just to make things a little less rigid. You might disagree but I just want to be transparent in how we’re going about this.

2016: Tyler Matakevich

Height: 6’0
Weight: 238
Arm Length: 31 1/4
Hand Size: 9 1/2
Bench Press: 22
40: 4.81
Vert: 31
Broad: 9’4″
Short Shuttle: 4.50
Three Cone: 7.19

2014: Ryan Shazier

Height: 6’1/1
Weight: 237
Arm Length: 32 3/8
Hand Size: 10
Bench Press: 25
40: N/A
Vert: 42
Broad: 10’10”
Short Shuttle: 4.21
Three Cone: 6.91

Jordan Zumwalt

Height: 6’4
Weight: 235
Arm Length: 31 1/4
Hand Size: 8 3/4
Bench Press: N/A
40: 4.76
Vert: 33
Broad: 9’8″
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Three Cone: 6.99

2013: Vince Williams

Height: 6’0/6
Weight: 233
Arm Length: N/A
Hand Size: N/A
Bench Press: N/A
40: N/A
Vert: 32.5
Broad: 9’3″
Short Shuttle: 4.67
Three Cone: 7.53

2012: Sean Spence

Height: 5’11/3
Weight: 231
Arm Length: 31 1/2
Hand Size: 9 1/4
Bench Press: 12
40: 4.71
Vert: 33.5
Broad: 9’11”
Short Shuttle: 4.28
Three Cone: 7.46

2010: Stevenson Sylvester

Height: 6’2/1
Weight: 231
Arm Length: 33 3/4
Hand Size: 10 1/8
Bench Press: 23
40: 4.78
Vert: 30.5
Broad: 8’9″
Short Shuttle: N/A
Three Cone: N/A

2008: Mike Humpal

Height: 6’2/4
Weight: 244
Arm Length: 31 1/4
Hand Size: 10
Bench Press: 20
40: 4.82
Vert: 38
Broad: 10’2″
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Three Cone: 7.07

2007: Lawrence Timmons

Height: 6’0/7
Weight: 234
Arm Length: 32 1/8
Hand Size: 9 5/8
Bench Press: 25
40: 4.7
Vert: 35
Broad: 10’3″
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Three Cone: 6.89

Without an ILB being drafted last year, the criteria remains unchanged.

– Height: 6’0+ (7 of 8 drafted)
– Weight: 230+ pounds (8 of 8)
– Arm Length: 31+ inches (7 of 7)
– Hand Size: 9+ inches (6 of 7)
– Bench Press: 20+ reps (5 of 6)
– 40 Time: sub 4.85 seconds (5 of 6)
– Vert: 30+ inches (8 of 8)
– Short Shuttle: sub 4.5 seconds (5 of 6)

Here are the candidates who check every one of those eight boxes.

Name Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size 40 Time Vertical Short Shuttle Bench
Genard Avery 6’0/4 248 31 10 1/8 4.59 36 4.36 26
Josey Jewell 6’1 234 32 10 4.82 33 4.27 22
Christian Sam 6’1 244 31 1/2 10 4.75 32 4.25 28
Leighton Vander Esch 6’4/2 256 33 7/8 9 3/4 4.65 39.5 4.15 20
Fred Warner 6’3/3 236 32 9 3/4 4.64 38.5 4.28 21
Kenny Young 6’1 236 32 3/8 9 1/2 4.60 36 4.48 23

Some unknown names on the list. Avery has been talked about, Jewell is a favorite ’round these parts, the team clearly loves Vander Esch, and Warner is considered a Day Two pick. Sam, from Arizona State, and Young from UCLA, are two potential Day Three selections.

And here are the linebackers who missed in just one category, the majority in either the bench and the short shuttle.

Oren Burks/Vanderbilt: Bench (18)
Malik Jefferson/Texas: Short Shuttle (DNP)
Micah Kiser/Virginia: Bench (DNP)
Darius Leonard/South Carolina State: Short Shuttle (DNP)
Uchenna Nwosu/USC: Short Shuttle (DNP)
Dorian O’Daniel/Clemson: Weight (223)
Matthew Thomas/Florida State: Bench (DNP)
Azeem Victor/Washington: Bench (19)

Nwosu could be considered an off-ball or an edge rusher. We’ll consider him for the latter group, too.

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