Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: LB/S Miles Killebrew
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: Since the start of free agency, the Steelers have signed two outside unrestricted free agents, one of them being former Lions special teams ace Miles Killebrew, who profiles as a tweener safety/linebacker hybrid, should he ever actually see time on defense.
If you had ‘special teamer’ as the first outside free agent the Steelers sign this year, then you win…well, nothing, other than the satisfaction of being right. To be fair, though, it’s not like their salary cap situation really affords them the opportunity to do much else, who it’s not the hardest prediction to make.
But former Lion Miles Killebrew is that, and as we have already talked about since his signing, he is among the league leaders in special teams tackles over the course of the past several seasons. The Steelers lost Tyler Matakevich last year, and Derek Watt didn’t really adequately replace him.
Presumably, Killebrew was only signed to a veteran-minimum deal, so he shouldn’t move the needle much as far as the team’s salary cap number is concerned, but either way, it should be expected that special teams is what he will be asked to do, and in that capacity, he plays pretty much everywhere.
Defensively, he seems to fit in with players like Marcus Allen and Antoine Brooks, the latter of whom last year general manager Kevin Colbert described as “half a linebacker, half a safety”. It’s obvious that head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have an affinity for this body type, even if they have yet to really deploy it effectively or meaningfully.
What are the odds that Killebrew actually gets on the field defensively this year? Well, I don’t know exactly, but the loss of Mike Hilton and the evidently imminent departure of Steven Nelson certainly make it a lot more plausible, as his competition would consist of Justin Layne and James Pierre, as well as the aforementioned Allen and Brooks, none of whom have much experience.
For what it’s worth, he has played about 600 defensive snaps over the course of his career, though they have come primarily in his first two seasons. He logged 87 snaps in 2019, but just one in 2018 and 2020 combined. He did start three games in 2017 and logged 353 defensive snaps, and has a couple of interceptions.