The Steelers defense really needs to improve significantly if the team wants to push for a Super Bowl run. They were ranked number 18 in overall defense. With lots of holes to fill in both linebacker positions (specifically the outside linebackers), what will become of the unit, the lifeblood of this Steeler defense?
Starting with the easier situation, the inside linebackers seem set. Lawrence Timmons is coming off a Pro Bowl season and 2nd year player Ryan Shazier, who I expect to win the starting spot opposite Timmons, has shown flashes of brilliance. Their back ups, Vince Williams and Sean Spence, are very capable of spelling either of them.
To be completely honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vince Williams ends up being the successor of Lawrence Timmons. Although it seems a while off, Lawrence isn’t getting any younger. Williams has the skill set to compliment Shazier in the long run.
The inside linebackers performed admirably last season, proving that they were one of the more complete corps on the defensive side of the ball.
Moving on to the outside linebackers, this is where things get a bit murky.
The supremely talented Bud Dupree was drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. With the lack of play from 2013 first round pick Jarvis Jones, Dupree was brought in to compete for a starting job.
Bud has all the measurables and skill to be the next great Steelers linebacker. If he can harness all that talent into production, there’s no telling how high his ceiling will go.
Part time human and full time beast LB James Harrison was brought out of retirement to be the ointment for a pass rush that had one too many broken wrists. He was out there terrorizing quarterbacks like the old’n days.
His presence was immediately felt, as were his tackles. He brought back a physicality that was sorely lacking.
Another player I’m excited about is Arthur Moats. He shone brightly during his limited snaps. He had 4 sacks to his name last season, and I expect that number to rise.
That being said, I believe Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones will be the starters come opening day, with James Harrison and Bud Dupree on their heels pressing for playing time.
If all goes well, we’ll witness a revival of the most important cog in the network of gears that is the Steelers defense.
Stats and info courtesy of NFL.com and Steelers.com