Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Myles Jack
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: After the Jacksonville Jaguars cut inside linebacker Myles Jack, the Steelers turned around and signed the veteran to a two-year, $16 million contract. In a roughly corresponding move, they released Joe Schobert at his position, who was due to make a similar amount of money.
Part of me does have to wonder: would the Steelers have released Joe Schobert if Myls Jack didn’t get cut? They did, at least, wait until after Jack’s contract was signed, sealed, and delivered, like they waited until Chukwuma Okorafor’s contract was buttoned up before releasing Zach Banner.
But that is neither here nor there, however, as now Jack is here, and Schobert is there—as in, currently not with a job. But does this move make the team better, and if so, by how much? Teams that are not cap-strapped don’t make it a habit of cutting proven quality starters.
I do think that Jack will be better in 2022 than Schobert was in 2021. I also hope that Jack will be better than Jack was in 2021 with the Jaguars, because he is coming off of perhaps his worst season yet, where a lot of his flaws were unfortunately exposed.
Jack isn’t going to save this defense, nor solidify the inside linebacker position for the next 5-7 years. At least, I don’t think he will. He could benefit if the Steelers’ defensive line is at full strength and plays up to its potential this year, which it very much did not last season outside of Cameron Heyward.
I do find myself cautious about this addition, and it’s hard to know which Jack the Steelers will be getting. While he is impressive from an athletic perspective—certainly the most athletic contributor to the position since Ryan Shazier, with better hips than Devin Bush—he lacks consistent physicality and diagnostic accuracy.
Ideally, the Steelers will have the opportunity to utilize him as a true mack, a guy who can just go out and make plays and not have to worry about taking on blocks or spending too much time reading. Give him a hole to run through or a guy to cover, and he’ll do that.