2021 Offseason Questions: How Big A Need Is OLB Heading Into Draft?

Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row. Pittsburgh went 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason. Those resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

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: How big of a need do the Steelers have at the outside linebacker position heading into the draft?

As we sit here today, the Steelers have five outside linebackers on their roster. Only two of them have more than one year of meaningful experience. One is T.J. Watt, and the other is Cassius Marsh. Second-year Alex Highsmith obviously has a lot of upside. He is expected to enter the starting lineup after the team lost Bud Dupree in free agency.

After that, they have the recently-signed Jamir Jones, a first-year undrafted free agent, and Christian Kuntz, an area native who at this point is probably more of a long snapper than a defensive player. The team also lost Ola Adeniyi and Jayrone Elliott from last season’s roster.

The Steelers have the luxury of having a superstar at the position. They also still have an unknown opposite him in the starting lineup. And while Marsh is an experienced veteran, he probably profiles better as a number four at this point in his career, with an emphasis on special teams.

There is an obvious need at outside linebacker right now. The question is, how big is that need? Should the Steelers be looking for a prospect that could potentially be a starter, maybe even this season? Obviously, that hinges on how high your opinion is of Highsmith. You still need to add talent. In 2010, with an established pair of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers still used a second round pick on Jason Worilds (and then a fourth round pick on Thaddeus Gibson). So you don’t want to restrict yourself.

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