L.J. Fort might not be the top free agent on the Pittsburgh Steelers list. But he’s one the team would like to bring back. Kevin Colbert confirmed the organization would like to re-sign the linebacker, according to KDKA’s Richie Walsh.
“I think we’d like to complement the guys we have,” Colbert said, according to Walsh. “You know we have a young man like L.J. Fort who’s an unrestricted free agent and we’d like to keep him in the mix.”
Fort finally logged substantial playing time in 2018 though even then, the team was hesitant to insert him into the lineup until they had to. Over 305 defensive snaps last year, Fort recorded 48 tackles, three of them for a loss, with one sack. He also was a core special teamer, playing a team-leading 333 snaps there.
Pittsburgh is still searching for an upgrade at inside linebacker. Colbert admitted as much, recently saying the team didn’t do enough to replace Ryan Shazier. As we wrote about this morning, the Steelers seem ready to move on from Jon Bostic; at least, from a defensive perspective.
Fort was signed by the team mid-way through the 2015 training camp. He’s always been one of the team’s top athletes and the athlete following Shazier’s injury. The coaching staff finally wised up this year, allowing him to play on passing downs. Overall, Fort performed well and played the run better than people give him credit, even if he still has to make strides in that area.
Pro Football Focus ranked him one of the top inside linebackers in the AFC North and the highest grade of any Steeler.
2018's highest-graded linebackers from the AFC North pic.twitter.com/iC1fKLwwMM
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 16, 2019
Though Fort would be smart to look for a place that may consider him something closer to full-time starter, or at least a clear, consistent path to playing time, should the Steelers re-sign him, it figures to be for relatively cheap.
Fort is one of several players on this roster about to become free agents. He joins the likes of Ramon Foster, Jesse James, Coty Sensabaugh, and Daniel McCullers. The new league year begins March 13th.