The Pittsburgh Steelers would like to come out of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft with an inside linebacker. But so would pretty much the rest of the AFC North, especially the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens just lost C.J. Mosley in free agency, which is a huge blow, and the Bengals parted ways with Vontaze Burfict.
Though Burfict’s health and skills were declining, his departure still opens a hole in the starting lineup, and from the sounds of it, the Bengals are very heavily weighing the option of addressing that hole in the first round. To that end, they have pre-draft visits scheduled for both of the draft’s top linebackers, Devin White and Devin Bush.
Cincinnati, who holds the 10th-overall pick after finishing last in the AFC North, will surely have at least one of the Devins available to them at 10, if not both of them, but it’s possible that White will be gone by then. Many feel that 10 would be too early for Bush, but not for a team who falls in love with him and what he can do, especially playing behind a strong front four.
This could be bad news for the Steelers and their presumed hopes of getting a linebacker in the first round after General Manager Kevin Colbert publicly acknowledged earlier this offseason that the team failed to adequately address the position in the wake of Ryan Shazier’s injury in 2017.
Last season, the Steelers signed Jon Bostic from the Indianapolis Colts to a two-year contract worth $4 million and aimed to have him competed with special teams player Tyler Matakevich for the starting job. Bostic won the job but was taken off the field in sub-packages.
Later in the season, L.J. Fort became the favored player to man the position, but even he is no longer available to them, as he signed a three-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, they signed former Los Angeles Rams starter Mark Barron to a two-year, $12 million contract. He might not be a long-term answer, but they hope he could tide them over.
The Steelers were reportedly aiming to come out of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with an inside linebacker, but the position ended up moving a lot quicker than it has in recent years, with the top four being drafted ahead of them. they were said to have tried to make a trade up for Rashaan Evans, but the Tennessee Titans beat them to it, making a deal with the Ravens.
[Your complaints about the team not drafting Darius Leonard may go here]
The front office’s ideal scenario heading into the first round is probably to come away with one of the top inside linebackers, but they have better prepared themselves this offseason to deal with the contingency of that not coming to pass. And if it doesn’t, the Bengals may be one of the major reasons why.