The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
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: Which would be more valuable in 2020, a veteran backup for inside linebacker or outside linebacker?
Over the course of the past two weeks, the Steelers have parted with three of the 11 total linebackers who finished the 2019 season with the team in some form or fashion, releasing Mark Barron and Anthony Chickillo while watching Tyler Matakevich depart in free agency.
While Matakevich at this point in his career wasn’t really regarded as anything more than an emergency option to play on defense, both Barron and Chickillo played or have played significant roles in the defense, and in their absence, the depth both inside and outside is very lacking in terms of experience.
In fact, of the two backups at inside linebacker—2019 rookie Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane—neither have taken a defensive snap. At outside linebacker, neither Olasunkanmi Adeniyi nor Tuzar Skipper have more than a handful of snaps under their belt, either, and Skipper’s came with the Giants.
The Steelers should have a formidable starting four with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree outside and Devin Bush and Vince Williams inside, including three with multiple years of starting experience and a top-10 pick entering his second season.
But what are the odds the Steelers get a collective 64 games out of them in 2020? Injuries are an ever-present reality in every season, so it’s inevitable that they will need to rely on others to fill in the gaps. Right now, they have three undrafted guys and a late sixth-round pick as their backups, who have a combined 100 or so snaps in their careers. So if you could add one veteran to the group, where would it be—inside or outside?