That the Pittsburgh Steelers are deficient in their inside linebacker room is a widely-held opinion. How, when, or even if they can adequately address those shortcomings is a matter much less settled. Some would like to see a wholesale turnover of the room, which would include releasing starter Myles Jack and his $8 million base salary.
Yet Steelers beat writer Ray Fittipaldo is hesitant about this year’s draft class at the position and argues that it’s a difficult position to draft generally, especially with the expectation of having a contributor right out of the chute.
While conceding that “it’s definitely a position of need” during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan last week with Andrew Fillipponi, he also cautioned against jumping the gun in the draft, even going so far as he would almost take the position off the board at 17.
“There’s not a lot of depth in this class”, he said. “You’ve got the guy from Clemson, Trenton Simpson, he’s gonna test extremely well. He’s kind of smallish. He’s not a big guy. The other thing is it’s a very difficult position to play. There’s a lot on the plate. Those guys are calling the defense”.
And on and on down the list it goes, with virtually every prospect having his cautionary drawbacks. So much so that Fittipaldo would be reluctant to part with Jack, in spite of his lack of impact plays last season, relative to his salary.
“If you can get Micah Parsons, go ahead and cut Myles Jack”, he said. “I’d be okay with that. I just don’t know if there’s a Micah Parsons or anyone like him, a Roquan Smith, [in this class]. I don’t know if there’s anyone like him in this draft”.
Parsons, of course, ended up playing on the edge for the Dallas Cowboys, but coming out of Penn St. he was seen as a player who could play on the edge or standing up inside. For a player with his talents, a team wouldn’t limit what they would ask him to do, anyway.
Aside from Jack, 2022 seventh-round pick Mark Robinson is the only other inside linebacker from last year’s 53-man roster. Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, and Marcus Allen are all due to become unrestricted free agents later this month.
Of the three, Spillane is the most likely to be re-signed, and Bush by far the least. Allen’s special teams contributions are what has kept him employed in Pittsburgh all these years, so he wouldn’t factor into the consideration of the starting lineup anyway.
While the discussion about how to improve the inside linebacker position is valid, it also goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the defense. Improving the defensive line could also go a long way toward improving the play in the middle of the defense.