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 are set at the inside linebacker position for the 2021 season.
Explanation: While the Steelers don’t return all the linebackers they finished the season with — Avery Williamson was acquired during an in-season trade and remains unsigned — they have brought everybody else back who started the year, and they’ve only gained experience since then. Yet one starter is returning from injury and the Steelers previously released the other before re-signing him to a minimum contract.
The fact that Pittsburgh released Vince Williams should not be held over his head because they did it as a salary cap move. While it’s true that they were ostensibly willing to lose him as a result, expecting that they could manage with Robert Spillane, their ability to bring him back secures what they need for the position.
That doesn’t mean that they can’t draft a linebacker in a few days. It does mean that they have put themselves in a position where they don’t need to. As a result, they probably won’t, given where they do have needs. The Steelers can come and go out of the draft without adding to the position, and be perfectly fine for this year.
Devin Bush with Williams and Spillane is a pretty strong top three when you factor in dime packages. I’m still optimistic about Ulysees Gilbert III if he can ever stay healthy. And another year at the position for Marcus Allen, a core special teamer, will only do him a service.
While it is the case that the Steelers may not need a rookie inside linebacker to contribute in 2021, there is the future of the position to consider. This is probably Williams’ last season in the league, for one thing. Spillane is not a proven starter and the team can’t hand him the distinction of heir apparent.
Bush had his rocky moments during the time that he did play last season. Now, he’s coming off of a torn ACL. We don’t know if he’ll have the same sideline-to-sideline speed that made him a top-10 pick when he comes back.
If the Steelers have the opportunity to add a blue-chip player to the often overlooked inside linebacker position, they need to give strong consideration to it. Anywhere they can land a future starter, they have to take a hard look at. Because they’ll need it a year from now, if not this year.