With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.
Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Up for Grabs: Depth
In the Mix: Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche, Jamir Jones, Calvin Bundage, Christian Kuntz
The Steelers have a strong top three at the outside linebacker position following the acquisition of veteran Melvin Ingram. There were a lot more questions before they were able to make that move. Now the question is how many other outside linebackers are worth carrying.
The obvious leading candidates for any remaining roster spots are veteran journeyman Cassius Marsh and rookie sixth-round draft pick Quincy Roche. We haven’t heard much about Roche so far this offseason, but he is perhaps a guy who is more likely to show up in a stadium.
As for Marsh, he is able to flash a bit on the practice field, but that is what a veteran is supposed to do. His special teams ability more than anything may be the best card that he has to play, though he does have some pass-rush ability (his run defense is another matter).
They are not alone at the position, however, and first-year Jamir Jones is a guy who has flashed so far in training camp. You know there’s nothing Steelers fans love more than a college free agent outside linebacker in the wake of James Harrison, with Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper being the most recent darlings, but Adrian Robinson being another.
Bundage doesn’t seem to have done much, if anything, at outside linebacker yet, but he is an inside-outside guy who at least has to be mentioned in the conversation now. He is a rookie college free agent. As for Christian Kuntz, he is likely more long snapper than outside linebacker at this point, but he logged snaps on defense for the Steelers in the preseason in 2019. So far, it doesn’t appear they’re looking at him on defense at all. He even wears a white jersey, indicating an offensive/specialist position, rather than a yellow defensive jersey, as he did in 2019.
The biggest question for the team is whether they carry four of five outside linebackers. If four, do they go with the experienced veteran with proven special teams ability, or the young late-round pick whom many think can play above his pedigree? And then there’s Jones, who could come on during the preseason and make himself the center of the conversation.