We all know the Pittsburgh Steelers obvious depth issue at outside linebacker. Even the starters are in question, 2018 being a make-or-break year for Bud Dupree. And if he or T.J. Watt goes down? Look out. Anthony Chickillo has struggled, as we recently wrote about, and beyond him are total unknowns, guys like Keion Adams who haven’t taken a preseason snap, much less one in a game that counts.
Honestly, you can make a compelling case the Steelers have more depth at inside linebacker than they have on the outside. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pittsburgh at least keep an eye on the free agent market near the end of the preseason and teams whittle their roster from 90 to 53.
If there’s one name you should circle, it’s the Indianapolis Colts’ OLB John Simon. He’s not going to solve all the Steelers’ problems but he’ll help and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pittsburgh interested.
I had previously written about the possibility of adding Shane Ray but after a series of wrist surgeries have shut him down, you can throw that idea out the window. I don’t think Simon is as talented of a pass rusher but he’s a well-rounded, versatile player that shows a better punch and more strength off the edge.
Simon wouldn’t be a name out of nowhere either. I usually write these articles only when there’s a reasonable connection between player and team. And there’s one between Simon and the Steelers. Coming out of Ohio State – a known Steelers favorite to draft from – in 2013, Pittsburgh brought him in for a pre-draft visit.
Pittsburgh opted to take Jarvis Jones in the first round, quelling their need at outside linebacker, and Simon was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the round four. He didn’t spend much time with them, snatched away by the Houston Texans the next year and then played for the Colts last year. Pittsburgh has faced him in 2014, 2015, and 2017, so they’re familiar with who he is.
He’s never had a stellar career but has 13.5 career sacks, three of them last year and a career high of five in 2015. I admit I haven’t taken a long look into him but in what I watched of his game, he’s a versatile player who has spent time at both OLB spots and even some work at ILB, just like he would do in a Keith Butler scheme. Dropping in coverage or twisting around on stunts were common too.
I see some impressive strength on his punch as a pass rusher. Working against the Jaguars’ left tackle, Simon unsuccessfully rips through him but is able to readjust, absorb the blow from the left guard, get square, and upright the tackle. He finishes it with a big hit on the QB, causing an incompletion.
Here, he turns the pressure into a sack. Bull rush through the Cardinals’ right tackle and finishes the play.
That’s a play I haven’t seen from Chickillo or Dupree. Simon isn’t a flashy pass rusher and he’s not going to win the edge very often but he’s a no-nonsense pass rusher who plays with violence in his hands.
You see the same in the run game. Two clips. First one, watch him shed the tight end, locate the ball, and make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
How about him working against an offensive tackle? Holds the point of attack against the LT (#70), forces the back down the line, and the play goes nowhere.
Of course, I’m showing highlights and there are plenty of lowlights too, I’m sure. Don’t expect Simon to break out or ever become a much different player than he is now, which is to say he’s average pretty much across the board. But even average is something of a Godsend in Pittsburgh.
Could the Steelers trade for him, in line with the training camp/preseason deals they’ve made in recent years? Potentially. But I think being able to sign him if he’s cut is more likely and hopefully, cheaper too. Simon appears to be on the Colts’ roster bubble as they transition to a 4-3 scheme under their new head coach. According to reports from team beat writers, Simon hasn’t gotten many snaps with the starters.
From 1070 The Fan:
It’s been 7 years since John Simon put his hand in the ground as a full-time defensive end. Simon is doing that as he moves to a 4-3 defensive end. In the spring, Simon has hardly seen any starting reps. With a crowded defensive end group, Simon is competing more so for a roster spot, than a starting position, at this point in the offseason.
Certainly, it’s possible Simon gets the axe from Indy at final cutdowns. And if he is, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Steelers took a longer look at him.