The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Who is the low man on the totem pole at the inside linebacker position?
Given that the Steelers opted to carry six inside linebackers last season, we can probably assume that there’s a good chance at least one player from the team last year who is still on the roster will not make the 53 later this year. Five is common for the position, but six as a default for an entire season was an aberration.
So that brings us to the question: assuming that the Steelers revert back to the mean for numbers at inside linebacker, which established player is most at jeopardy of losing his roster spot? We can safety assume that Myles Jack will be making the roster, as well as Devin Bush (his contract is guaranteed, anyway). Presumably, they have no intentions of moving on from Robert Spillane.
After that is where it gets interesting. They presumably like Buddy Johnson, their fourth-round pick a year ago, enough to keep him around for another year and find how what he’s all about. Then there are Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III.
I think Allen and Gilbert are clearly behind the other four mentioned. Both became core special-teams player last season, which is why both made the team last year to begin with. Both were averaging about 19-20 special teams snaps per game. Gilbert, however, performed better, and not just because he registered more tackles and recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Will that be the deciding factor? Presumably, Pittsburgh hopes that Spillane and Johnson would be their top two defensive backups, so it may ultimately be in the hands of Danny Smith—who will obviously try to keep both.