The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers’ inside linebacker depth will prove to be sufficient.
Explanation: Last year, Vince Williams was essentially a backup, or at least a rotational player, with Devin Bush and Mark Barron playing the bulk of the snaps. Since then, Barron has been released, Tyler Matakevich left in free agency, and nobody of significance was added.
Ulysees Gilbert III is going to live up to the expectations that a lot of fans already have for him. He is the sort of linebacker that is built to play in this era of the game, somebody who can play from sideline to sideline and knows what he’s doing in coverage while understanding his responsibilities from top to bottom.
And I don’t think that we should dismiss Robert Spillane. I see in him the potential to be a better Matakevich who could actually contribute on defense without being a liability. Not as a sideline chaser, but in the ballpark of athleticism for a Buck. He looked the part in the preseason and played tough in coverage.
There’s also a good chance that the depth isn’t even going to be tested, so they can be sufficient from that perspective. There weren’t a lot of injuries last year with their linebackers—Gilbert never played a snap, for example, and Matakevich hardly played at all.
These are two young players who have never played a defensive snap of regular season football. While that means that we don’t know a lot about them, it also means that they are not prepared for what’s coming if they have to play, and that’s in a shortened offseason, no less.
You know who looked like a playmaker during his rookie preseason? Matakevich. Granted, Gilbert is worlds apart from Matakevich in terms of athleticism. But that alone isn’t going to wrap up ballcarriers and make stops. He’s raw. He played third-string offenses. He’s never gone into the hole against a Marshal Yanda.