2018 South Side Questions: Is ILB Rotation Going To Lead To Breakdowns?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is the Steelers’ planned rotation at inside linebacker going to lead to significant blown assignments on Sunday?

The Steelers currently expect veteran inside linebacker Vince Williams to miss Sunday’s game, which will be the first of his career. Rather than rely upon one man to replace him, the coaching staff has reportedly been getting every other inside linebacker on the roster involved in some form or fashion.

Supposedly, the plan is to have Tyler Matakevich line up in the 3-4 defense, formerly their ‘base’, but which is no longer their primary package. L.J. Fort, who replaced Williams last week when he left the game, will play in ‘sub-packages’, and rookie Matthew Thomas will be ‘sprinkled in’.

First of all, does ‘sprinkled in’ mean that he is going to be use in the ‘dimebacker’ role that is currently missing its primary player in Morgan Burnett (and the next man up, Nat Berhe, is already on injured reserve)? Will he be used in the ‘Seminole’ package? Or will he just be a one-for-one substitution here and there during the game?

No matter when and how they sort out the playing time and role, it sounds like a recipe for communication breakdowns, which have already been an issue through the first four weeks of the season. Expecting three people to take over one role is not the ideal situation, complicating a role that is already an issue.

It doesn’t sound good, but there’s only one way we are going to find out how it works out, and that is to watch it play out. And let’s also remember that plans change. Perhaps if one player shows well, he’ll be left in the game.

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