The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2022 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then. The changes apply to almost every position on the roster. Some are major changes and some minor, though some have remained largely static.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp. This year, it’s back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. It would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Inside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 7
Devin Bush: It’s become almost tiring to re-tell Devin Bush’s story over and over again. We all know how big a year this is for the former 10th-overall draft pick. Pretty much nobody at this point expects him to be back in 2023.
Myles Jack: A former second-round draft pick, Jack was released by the Jaguars earlier this offseason to replace Joe Schobert, who was then released. He offers superior athleticism to their other options, but there’s a reason he was cut, and it wasn’t just about the salary cap.
Robert Spillane: Entering his fourth season with the Steelers and third as a primary backup, Spillane has played over 700 defensive and exactly 400 special teams snaps over the past two seasons.
Buddy Johnson: Last year’s fourth-round draft pick, Johnson spent most of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, and then finished it as an injured scratch. The team still expects a second-year jump from him, and many hope that he can start working his way up the depth chart.
Marcus Allen: A former safety converted to linebacker a couple seasons ago, Allen has started a couple of games due to injury, but his primary value by far has come on special teams.
Ulysees Gilbert III: Now going into his fourth season, Gilbert has begun to solidify himself as a special-teamer, with a career-high 15 tackles last season, mostly on Danny Smith’s units. He scored a touchdown off of a blocked punt in Week 1 to help upset the hometeam Buffalo Bills.
Mark Robinson: One of only two defenders drafted, Robinson comes via the seventh round out of Ole Miss. A converted running back, he is new to the position, but has some athleticism and is ready to thump.
Tegray Scales: A practice squad player for most of his career, Scales has spent brief spells on the 53-man roster. He was waived shortly after the draft to make room for college free agent signings.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
I don’t think we’re going to learn much about the Steelers’ starting linebackers during training camp and the preseason, truth be told. About all we’ll glean is how comfortable Bush looks and what his athleticism is shaping up to be another year removed from his knee injury.
The real ‘intrigue’ here is the depth, and how that shakes out. Allen and Gilbert are both here more or less for special teams purposes, and they kept six inside linebackers last year, but it’s unlikely they can afford to do that again.
Can Buddy Johnson take a significant step forward this year? Can Robinson carve out a role for himself, enough to stick on the 53-man roster? And will anybody be granted a rotational or situational defensive role, whether Spillane or Johnson?