It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first breaths of the 2018 NFL season.
Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and restructures to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.
And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.
Position: Inside Linebacker
Up for Grabs: No. 4-5 Depth
In the Mix: L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas, Matt Galambos, Keith Kelsey
Given the Steelers’ evident intention to carry five safeties this year, and the possibility of them making increased use of the dime defense, there may be a decreased likelihood of the team carrying five inside linebackers, which at a time in the very recent past almost seem like a given every year. They did so I believe four years in a row recently.
This year? They’ll have to see if there are even four inside linebackers that they want to put on the roster. And they already have their top three settled with Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, and Jon Bostic, though the exact order among them is still to be determined.
As for the rest, it’s somewhat up in the air. Fort is the veteran of the group and spent the bulk of the spring running with the second-team defense along with Bostic. He also got the opportunity to log some time on defense late last season in a rotational attempt to fill the snaps lost by Ryan Shazier.
Matthew Thomas is a rookie undrafted free agent, but reportedly somebody that they want to take a long look at. According to the beat writers, he got a lot of reps during OTAs and minicamp. The Steelers believe that he has the talent. He also believes it of himself.
Both Matt Galambos and Keith Kelsey were undrafted rookies in 2017, and both spend time on the practice squad. They each were able to make enough plays during the preseason in 2017 to keep their names alive, and that has helped them earn Reserve/Future deals for this year.
The question is, can they keep building on that? Neither of them are particularly athletic, which is even more of a concern considering the general lack of that trait on the roster right now. The Steelers need more linebackers that can cover, and Fort out of the group is the only one with experience doing that at the NFL level.