2023 Offseason Positional Review – Inside Linebacker

It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.

The Steelers have several key players due to become free agents shortly, and a number of large contracts could be salary cap casualties, so a lot will be changing in the near future, but this is where things stand, at each position, as of this writing.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Total Positional Figure: 7

Additions: 0

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

Under Contract:

Myles Jack: A ‘prize’ free agent a year ago, Jack signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Steelers following his release from Jacksonville. While his play early in the season was generally praised as he was racking up tackles, he ended the year with relatively minor impact. He struggled to stay healthy during the season.

Mark Robinson: A rookie seventh-round pick, Robinson was a healthy scratch for most of the season. The Steelers gave him the opportunity to play at the end of the season, perhaps as a tryout to see if he can be a viable starting candidate in 2023.

Chapelle Russell: The former Temple product has been in the league since 2020, logging about 100 career defensive snaps. He spent the 2022 season on the Steelers’ practice squad. He has one career start in 2021, in which he recorded eight tackles.

Tae Crowder: A veteran with starting experience, Crowder was signed to the 53-man roster from the New York Giants’ practice squad on December 27. He did not play in a game, however. When acquired, he was signed to a two-year deal, so he is under contract for 2023.

Pending Free Agents:

Devin Bush: If you’re reading this, you know Devin Bush’s history already and why he’s inevitably not going to continue his career in Pittsburgh. While he offered some modest improvements from last season, the bottom line is he was demoted by the end of the year, which says it all.

Robert Spillane: There’s a reasonable chance that Robert Spillane is one of your starting inside linebackers in 2023. After all, he often served that role last season, logging 100 percent of the snaps in the final four games, and about 600 in total defensively. While his overall athletic profile leaves something to be desired, his instincts and football knowledge are to be commended.

Marcus Allen: A former fifth-round pick, Allen has made his career on special teams, and that doesn’t appear likely to change any time soon. He may or may not be re-signed, on a minimum deal, on that basis.

Additions: N/A

Deletions: N/A

Offseason Strategy:

The Steelers know they need to get more out of their inside linebacker position moving forward than they did a year ago. What role Jack has to play in that may or may not already be decided, but we can’t know all the team’s internal considerations.

Many on the beat have suggested that the Steelers want to see if Robinson can be a starter. Even if that’s the case, they won’t rely on that being the case. I fully expect Spillane to be re-signed, but could they consider switching Jack out with a free agent?

Well, I wouldn’t count on it. Nor would I trust that they will draft a linebacker very high, either. Possibly with one of their later day two picks, but no earlier than that. If they’re drafting a linebacker at 17 or 32, then the board broke poorly for them.

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