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: Who is the best middle/inside linebacker in the AFC North?
Note: for simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to use images of Steelers for the cover photos of these articles. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m arguing they’re the best.
Since we combined 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends for yesterday’s article, today we are going to group together all off-ball linebackers, the middle linebackers in a 4-3 (e.g. the Bengals and Browns) and the inside linebackers of the 3-4 teams (e.g. the Steelers and Ravens).
I think a case could be made for Devin Bush already being the best inside linebacker in the division, especially if you want to toss out future projections. He totaled over 100 tackles as a rookie with a forced fumble and two interceptions, so not a bad start.
Some of the best linebackers in the division have also left recently, namely C.J. Mosely and Joe Schobert (and, at an earlier time, Vontaze Burfict). I wish we could still talk about Ryan Shazier, but alas…also, Patrick Onswuasor did not have a great year.
Amazingly, the way things are shaping up right now, L.J. Fort is projecting to be a starter in Baltimore next season. Meanwhile, Josh Bynes went from the Ravens to the Bengals, who are still in the market at the position. The Browns are turning the position over to young players, led by Mack Wilson, though they did sign B.J. Goodson.
So yeah, the more I go through this list, the more I like Bush. And maybe even Vince Williams in the top two or three…