2023 Pre-Draft Movements – Inside Linebacker

We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Steelers had a number of notable starters hit free agency this year, and their retention success rate was mixed, re-signing Larry Ogunjobi but losing Cameron Sutton, for example. Largely, however, what they lost they replaced, adding Patrick Peterson in Sutton’s stead.

They also had another active year in outside free agency beyond replacing missing pieces, or voluntary departures, such as Myles Jack. The most notable move was Isaac Seumalo being signed along the offensive line. While Terrell Edmunds is gone, Damontae Kazee was retained and Keanu Neal was added. Likewise, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts come in and replace Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.

The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Jack and William Jackson III, the latter of whom never dressed for them. As of now, they have restructured only one contract to create cap space, that being Minkah Fitzpatrick, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is very possible.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Total Positional Figure: 6

Offseason Additions: 3

Offseason Deletions: 4

Players Retained:

Mark Robinson: It’s rather weird to be writing Mark Robinson’s name at the top of the list here. He’s the last man standing from the start of the 2022 season. The rest of the room is gone. And he played a couple dozen snaps at the end of the season, a healthy scratch most of the year. How high is their opinion of him?

Tae Crowder: A former Mr. Irrelevant by the Giants, Crowder does have a good amount of playing time under his belt, but there’s a reason he was let go. He could compete as depth, particularly if he shows a proclivity for special teams.

Chapelle Russell: Having been in the league since 2020, Russell has one start and about 100 defensive snaps to his name. He spent the 2022 season on the Steelers’ practice squad and was retained after the season on a Reserve/Future contract.

Players Added:

Cole Holcomb: Signed to a three-year, $18 million contract in free agency, Holcomb seems poised to be the team’s new top linebacker, likely wearing the green dot and staying on the field. But he’s more of an upside player, the Steelers hoping he can reach new heights in a new defense.

Elandon Roberts: A veteran early-downs thumper, Roberts was brought in on a two-year, $7 million contract. Right now, he is likely to be the buck linebacker and should spend a lot of third downs on the sidelines.

Tanner Muse: The most recent signing, Muse is primarily a special teamer, likely replacing Marcus Allen, who remains unsigned after spending five years with the Steelers.

Players Deleted:

Devin Bush: One of the biggest busts of the Kevin Colbert era, the Steelers traded up 10 spots in the first round to get him in 2019, only to watch him leave and sign a cheapish one-year deal with Seattle. There are reports the Steelers made no effort to retain him—which tells you everything you need to know.

Myles Jack: Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract last year, Jack spent one year here as a starter before being cut. He started off well, ripping off 10-tackle games early on, but his play, and his health, trailed off as the season progressed.

Robert Spillane: Spillane found a nice little upside deal with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency. It is unknown how interested the Steelers were in retaining him, but they didn’t hesitate to find replacements. He seemed to find his way on the field by default.

Marcus Allen: A former fifth-round pick who was originally drafted as a safety, Allen converted to linebacker in the middle of his career to try to stick around. He managed to carve out a role for himself on special teams, but that doesn’t appear to be enough to get a new contract.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

No position has seen more turnover this offseason than inside linebacker, which is fitting because the group produced no turnovers during the 2022 season. Holcomb and Roberts, however, aren’t going to scare any offensive coordinators, and one should have low expectations for Robinson and Crowder.

Picking up a developmental linebacker in the early to mid rounds certainly would not be a bad idea, but they have positioned themselves to be able to pass up the position altogether if the board doesn’t break in its favor.

The draft class is pretty much all over the board this year, but I don’t believe there is an inside linebacker worth the 17th pick. The only one I can really see as in play at 32 would be Jack Campbell out of Iowa, with Drew Sanders, Daiyan Henley, Trenton Simpson, and DeMarvin Overshown some of the other day-two candidates. Names like Dorian Williams, Henry To’oTo’o, or Ivan Pace Jr. could factor in on day three. A seventh-rounder could be used on Pitt’s SirVocea Dennis.

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