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2021 Offseason Questions: Will Miles Killebrew be More Safety or Linebacker?

Miles Killebrew

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, 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, resulting 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 is 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: Will Miles Killebrew be viewed as more of a defensive back or linebacker in the Steelers’ system?

As is often the case, the Steelers have not added any significant, high-profile names via outside free agency this offseason. The most familiar name is B.J. Finney, who started 12 games over four years with the team previously as a reserve offensive lineman. Joe Haeg was the other biggest outside name signed.

Then there’s Miles Killebrew, who is a special teamer first and defensive player second. Over the course of his career, he has logged nearly three times as many snaps on special teams (1,630) as he has on defense (590). The majority of his playing time on defense came in his first two seasons, in 2016-17.

But where would he lined up for Pittsburgh, were he to be on defense? Killebrew is regarded as a safety-linebacker hybrid. Historically, he has logged more time in the secondary than on the line or in the box. The Steelers list him as a linebacker, but they also list Chris Wormley as a nose tackle, so you never know with these things.

Practically speaking, the distinction will probably wind up being immaterial, since he is likely to rarely play on defense, and would most likely conform to a role that is a true hybridization of the assignments of a strong safety and an inside linebacker. But he’s got to sit in somebody’s meeting room. Will it be Jerry Olsavsky’s?

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