2019 Offseason Positional Review – Inside Linebacker

With the 2018 season completely in the books and 2019 staring us down just around the corner, it’s time to pause and take stock of the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers by looking at their roster as it stands now, going position by position.

The new league year officially begins on March 13, and coincides with the start of free agency. Between now and then, the Steelers figure to make a couple more decisions about what the roster will look like, including the signing of a couple more of their pending unrestricted free agents. There are a few other loose ends to tie up before then as well.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Total Positional Figure: 8

Additions: 2

Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

Vince Williams: Now among the most veteran players on defense, a 2013 draft pick and a full-time starter for the past two seasons, Vince Williams is one of the leaders of the defense, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is irreplaceable on the field. The problem is the Steelers already have another position to replace.

Jon Bostic: That would be because Jon Bostic didn’t exactly make that job his own. The 2018 free agent signing played the run well but was limited in other areas, to the point that he was taken off the field pretty regularly, especially later in the year.

L.J. Fort: And Fort was one of the reasons for that, because the veteran linebacker often came on the field to replace Bostic, especially later in the year. In the dime, he would be the only inside linebacker on the field. The team has yet to re-sign him.

Tyler Matakevich: Settling into a special teams role, Matakevich is entering a contract year in 2019. He’ll continue to make plays against backups in the preseason, however, even if he doesn’t play in the regular season.

Keith Kelsey: A 2017 college free agent, Kelsey spent the year on injured reserve. He will be an exclusive rights free agent.

Ryan Shazier: The Steelers have vowed to make sure he is with the team in 2019 even though they know he will not play this year. They will stick by him through everything and support him in any way possible while he retains his dream to return to the field.

Players Added:

Tegray Scales: A bigger linebacker, he was productive in college. He has been kicking around for two years as a former college free agent with the Rams and later the Colts. He was added as a futures signing in January.

Robert Spillane: Another productive college linebacker who is not a great athlete. He was with the Titans last year and spent time on the practice squad, even briefly the 53-man roster, before being cut for good in the middle of the season.

Players Deleted:

Matthew Thomas: After spending most of the season on the 53-man roster, he was moved to the practice squad and not offered a futures contract. The team had decided it had seen enough of the rookie college free agent.

Offseason StrategyFind a starter, re-sign Fort.

It goes without saying that one of the top priorities this offseason will be to find a starting inside linebacker. The free agent market at the top is too expensive and the rest is not exciting, but somebody like Jordan Hicks could make sense.

Even if they do sign somebody, however, the position will still be a target as early as the first round, and if the right player is there, they could even trade up for the first time in the first round under Mike Tomlin. Remember, they drafted Lawrence Timmons while they still had James Farrior and Larry Foote.

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