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 should add some veteran help at inside linebacker due to the inexperience of their reserves.
Explanation: The Steelers worked hard last offseason to add depth and talent to their inside linebacker position. While they still have some talent—largely in the form of Devin Bush—they have very questionable depth, and even more questionable inexperience.
Last season, the Steelers’ inside linebacker group consisted of Devin Bush and Mark Barron as starters, with Vince Williams as a core rotational player. Tyler Matakevich and Ulysees Gilbert III were on the roster primarily as special teams players, with the latter a developing rookie, and Robert Spillane was still on the practice squad.
Scratch Barron and Matakevich from that list and that’s basically what they’re left with. Bush and Williams are your starters and Gilbert and Spillane, two guys who have a combined zero regular season defensive snaps, are your backups.
Given the risks of this season, it’s more important than ever to have veteran players at your disposal to serve in backup emergency capacities wherever you can insulate yourself. The Steelers already did that at running back and safety, seeing the usefulness at those positions. They’re overlooking one of the most critical defensive roles.
Experience doesn’t mean a player isn’t up to the task. It just means he hasn’t been given the chance to do it yet. And there’s good reason to be optimistic about Gilbert, because he’s done nothing but show well since he’s been drafted. Spillane also impressed during the preseason last year and was great on special teams when he got that opportunity later on.
While I would not be against the Steelers going out and signing a very cheap veteran inside linebacker, it’s too far to say that it’s something that they should do, because it implies that it’s a major weakness if they don’t. Because of the fact that they only have five total inside linebackers on the roster right now, however, they should try to add any type of inside linebacker body for training camp purposes. Any capable veteran is going to affect the salary cap.