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: How much playing time will Mark Barron get if he does not start, and in what role?
The Steelers so much wanted to make sure that they would not find themselves in the same position at inside linebacker as they were last year that they came away with two potential legitimate starters for one position this offseason.
That started with the signing of Mark Barron in free agency, a former top-10 pick who was originally drafted as a safety but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but converted to linebacker while he was with the Los Angeles Rams in more recent years.
But then they made an aggressive move in the draft, trading up in the first round to get Devin Bush, and frankly their first-round picks have a track record of not just playing but starting during their rookie seasons. Their previous two were wall-to-wall starters, and every other one going back to David DeCastro in 2012 started at some point as rookies as well.
So, just playing the odds, Bush will probably be in the starting lineup at some point this year, which likely means Barron will not be on the field for a lot of those snaps. But they spent good money on him–$6 million per season—and likely saw him as a player who could be utilized in other ways.
During the draft, defensive coordinator Keith Butler mentioned the 3-5-3 defense as it has risen in prominence at the college level. Could we see Bush, Barron, and Vince Williams on the field together a reasonable amount of time this year? Could Barron and Marcus Allen essentially divide up the ‘dimebacker’ job? Is it even possible that Barron starts over Williams, or perhaps rotates at both inside linebacker positions? What are your thoughts, so early in the offseason at least, about how the veteran will end up being used in 2019?