The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2021 NFL Draft with a number of holes—perhaps a few more than they might normally have in any given year. But after losing four linebackers since last season, one would imagine that this will be their biggest priority heading into this month’s event.
While the team did lose two starting cornerbacks, which has to be a major concern, it’s hard to lose four players in one group—and specifically three players from one position, outside linebacker—without making an effort to address it in a meaningful way. And Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes that’s the Steelers’ plan, as he writes in a recent article.
“It would not be surprising to see the Steelers use their first defensive pick in the draft on outside linebacker”, he wrote, though he indicated that he doesn’t believe mock drafts with the likes of Zaven Collins out of Tulsa in the first round will accurately reflect the team’s plans, believing that will be an offensive player.
“But that doesn’t mean the Steelers won’t consider an outside linebacker on the second day of the draft, maybe in the third round”, Dulac continued. “While it might make more sense to draft an inside linebacker who has a chance to come in and be an immediate starter — someone, perhaps, like Alabama’s Dylan Moses on Day 2 — the Steelers’ might be more inclined to bolster the depth on the outside”.
He did suggest around this time last year that outside linebacker was a higher priority within the organization than it seemed many on the outside believed, and then the Steelers, of course, drafted Alex Highsmith in the third round with their second selection in 2020.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be right on this hunch. But it’s a pretty safe prediction that a team that lost two starters and two backups will be interested in addressing the position. Bud Dupree at outside linebacker left in free agency, while Olasunkanmi Adeniyi followed him, and Jayrone Elliott was not retained.
Remaining at outside linebacker are T.J. Watt, of course, and Alex Highsmith, alongside the late-season addition of veteran Cassius Marsh. They don’t even have enough pass rushers to go into the season with, so it’s inevitable that they will probably draft one.
Likewise at inside linebacker, they parted with starter Vince Williams, while Avery Williamson has also not been retained as an unrestricted free agent. While Devin Bush is coming back from injury and Robert Spillane could be a legitimate if temporary starting option, the depth of Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III isn’t overwhelmingly comforting either.