The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. 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.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.
Question: Are the Steelers more likely to keep a fifth outside or inside linebacker?
Since making significant additions to both positions, the Steelers find themselves looking much more solid at the outside and inside linebacker spots now than they did a month ago. Their first addition was signing free agent edge rusher Melvin Ingram shortly before training camp started. More recently, they acquired inside linebacker Joe Schobert via trade.
The ripple effect of these moves is as much about the insulation of the positions as it is the immediate possible starting contributions. And it also prompts the question of how many linebackers they might keep in total, and which would be favored over the other if not split evenly.
While the Steelers are no strangers to keeping 10 linebackers, nine is the more likely, and typical. Often, it has favored a fifth inside linebacker, but this year is more uncertain than it normally is. But they have a good six, seemingly, at both positions.
At inside linebacker, assuming rookie Buddy Johnson is safe, you have Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III. Both have years under their belts already, and are vying for a potential fifth spot. On the outside, you have veteran Cassius Marsh and rookie/first-year players Quincy Roche and Jamir Jones competing for fourth and fifth spots there.
Of these five players, who are the most likely to make the team? Marsh is probably the closest to a lock. After that, I would have to say Allen, making, for me, the inside linebacker position the more likely to get a ninth linebacker spot, if more than that are not kept. I couldn’t even decide between Roche and Jones.