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Keep, Keep, Cut: Allen, Gilbert, Johnson

You’re going to build the roster.

If you’re like me you’d love the chance to be a General Manager. We all have our opinions on players throughout the draft process and throughout the season of who we would prefer to have on the team or active roster. I thought this might be a fun process to look at a group of players give some background information on each player and see who you would keep. And yes, I understand you want to see how everyone does in training camp.

I’ll give you three players from each position group and you decide which two you will keep (one to the active roster, one to the practice squad) and one player to cut. At the end of this process we’ll have a 53 man roster and a good portion of the practice squad built by you.

Inside Linebacker

Who’s in and who’s out?  The retirement of veteran leader Vince Williams and his physical presence and timely blitzing he brought to the defense will be missed and hard to replace. They have a linebacker coming back from injury, a linebacker brought in through the draft and a linebacker brought in this week in the mix along will some familiar names trying to stake their claim.

Return of the MACK with Devin Bush returning from a knee injury sustained in 2020.  He was trying to improve on a rookie season where he started 15 games topped one hundred tackles which led the team. He was off to a strong start last year and has looked good so far in preseason not showing any hesitancy in his play.

Kevin Colbert worked his seemingly annual preseason magic to bring in another important piece to add to the team.  Joe Schobert was brought in from the Jacksonville Jaguars to try to solidify the linebacker tandem. He will fill the BUCK position and judging by his tackling numbers, he is where the buck stops.  Over the last four years he has 144, 103, 133 and 141 tackles.  He’s pretty good in coverage too with 23 pass breakups over those same four years.

His hopes to start were squashed with the trade for Schobert but that makes Robert Spillane the number one back up. He filled in for Bush when he was injured last season and knows both inside positions.  He made some big plays in 2020 with a pick six versus Baltimore and the big hit against the Titans an he’ll be a strong performer on special teams and will provide depth.

The Players

Marcus Allen – A fifth round  pick in the 2018 draft and a player the Steelers have transitioned to linebacker after playing safety in college.  He had a strong college career racking up 320 tackles and 17 for a loss while at Penn State. His first two years as a pro were quiet but he got more playing time last year playing in sub packages and appearing in fourteen games with two starts and totaled 30 tackles with 19 being solo.

On the positive side, it took some time but Allen found a role last year and was solid overall. He has recognized and acknowledged his lack of hand usage taking on blocks and is working to improve. He was on the field for 14 games last year with over 200 snaps on defense and had 21 tackles the last three games.

Best Game of 2020 Week 14 vs Buffalo – 8 tackles, 5 solo, 1 tackle for a loss, 56 defensive snaps, and 14 special team snaps

On the negative side, he has the least amount of time as a linebacker compared to the other players. Undersized to play in the box and needs work with his technique. He allowed eight of 10 passes to be completed against him. In 2020, he missed 5 tackles, basically one out of every seven chances.

Worst Game of 2020 Week 1 vs Giants – 7 special team snaps, no tackles, inactive for 2 games

Ulysees Gilbert – He was a sixth round pick in 2019 and was looking to add some speed and athleticism to the linebackers group.  He played collegiately in the MAC where the Steelers like to find gems and put up big numbers with 357 tackles with 28.5 for loss.  As a professional he has 10 tackles of which six are solo and has been a solid contributor on special teams.

On the positive side, he is known commodity and has been in the system for two years.  He has made some plays on special teams and is listed as the backup to Bush. His athleticism shows promise and still could become a solid backup.

Best Game in 2020 Week 14 vs Buffalo – 4 tackles, 3 solo, 19 defensive snaps and 6 special team snaps

On the negative side, he has been active for only 11 of 32 games.   He has dealt with multiple injuries and has been on injured reserve for 15 weeks in two seasons. He has only 33 total defensive snaps and in his defensive snaps this preseason he has not looked strong and missed two tackles.

Worst Game in 2020 Week 15 vs Cincinnati – 12 special team snaps, only active for 4 games.

Buddy Johnson – The Steelers spent a fourth round pick in the 2021 draft to add the Texas A&M linebacker. He finished his career with 209 tackles and 23.5 tackles for a loss. He tested high athletically, is a sure tackler, is technical run defender and plays with a downhill mentality

On the positive side, he is the youngest of this group and played linebacker collegiately at a high level.  He is listed on the depth chart as a MACK linebacker and has the ability to play either spot. He is serviceable in coverage and handle running backs fairly well.

On the negative side, he’s a rookie and you don’t want to rely on him right away to be a primary backup. Especially, how other teams expose the Steelers linebackers in the passing game. In the first two preseason games he has only one tackle in 40 defensive snaps. Can he do enough on special teams to make him worthy of a roster spot?

The choice is yours. I will tally up the comments and also do a poll on Twitter to get the results. The results of each position group will be listed below going forward until you have a complete roster.

Previous Selections

53 Man Roster – (34 of 53)

  • QB (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
  • RB (3) – Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell Jr
  • FB (1)– Derek Watt
  • WR (5) – Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
  • TE (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
  • IOL (5) – Kevin Dotson, Trai Turner, Kendrick Green, Rashad Coward, B.J. Finney
  • OT (4) – Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Dan Moore, Joe Haeg
  • DL (6) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Carlos Davis
  • OLB (4) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche

Practice Squad (8)

  • QB – Joshua Dobbs, RB Kalen Ballage, WR Isaiah McKoy, TE Kevin Rader, IOL J.C. Hassenauer, OL Aviante Collins, DL Isaiah Buggs, OLB Jamir Jones

 

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