Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: ILB Mark Barron
Stock Value: Down
This is such an obvious one that I am equally amazed and disappointed in myself that I didn’t prioritize it sooner, but yes, it’s quite fair to say that the drafting of Devin Bush lowered the stock value of free agent signing Mark Barron, similar to how Terrell Edmunds ate into Morgan Burnett’s value after he signed a year ago. Only more so. Even if he plays more than Burnett did.
It’s possible that Bush is a day-one starter and plays a starter’s number of snaps right away. But we don’t know that yet. It’s equally possible that Barron begins the season as the starting Mack linebacker next to Vince Williams and holds that role for most or even all of the season, with Bush getting a smattering of playing time here and there.
But one way or another, eventually, Bush is going to have a negative effect on Barron’s ability to get on the field, and given that after he signed he told reporters that he expected to be a three-down linebacker, this is obviously a departure from what he anticipated when he came to Pittsburgh.
Of course, the draft has a funny way of reshaping expectations for players based on who else is brought in. the guys at the position of a team’s first-round pick are not going to be happy about a player of that pedigree being brought in and potentially taking their job, even if they welcome him as a teammate. That’s life in the NFL.
Even if Barron doesn’t start, though, he is going to have some kind of role. I don’t think they would have signed him in the first place if they didn’t think there were other things that he could do aside from being an every-down Mack linebacker.
It’s possible they could use packages with three inside linebackers, for example, which was even something that Keith Butler seemed to hint at during the draft. So while the influx of Bush is a knock on his value, he’s still going to be, I think, a big part of this team, wherever they can fit him.