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: Will Sutton Smith and Ulysees Gilbert III end up fighting for the same roster spot?
While it is quite possible that the Steelers can keep 10 total linebackers on the roster—they have done it before, as recently as a couple of years ago, even if they had only eight of them last season—it’s probably equally likely, if not more, that the team carries a number lower than that.
Realistically, nine seems to be the safe bet this year, I would think. At outside linebacker, you of course have T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, and arguably Olasunkanmi Adeniyi as the ‘locks’. On the inside, there is Vince Williams, Mark Barron, Devin Bush, and then special teamer Tyler Matakevich as another debatable lock.
It will be difficult to accommodate both of their rookie sixth-round linebackers, but they wouldn’t have drafted them in the first place if it wasn’t possible for them to fit somewhere provided that they earned their way.
Gilbert has to figure to have a much tougher road to a roster spot. At inside linebacker, the Steelers already have three players that they are looking at to figure out how to get all of them on the field, and which two of them will start. And Matakevich is one of the top special teams players on the roster.
That doesn’t make Smith a shoe-in, however, even though he has already become a virtual fan favorite. It’s possible that neither Smith nor Gilbert actually end up making the 53-man roster if we really want to explore the possibilities, but I imagine one of them will make it.