This is part four in a series from steelcityblitz.com arguing the reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers should take a specific position with the 17th pick in the first round. Today is a look at the inside linebackers.
I’m going to go ahead and play spoiler right now. I can’t see the Steelers picking an ILB in the first simply because I don’t know that there is a guy worthy of 17. Trade down and get one? Possibly…
Every position on the football field is important and crucial to a team’s success, but on the defensive side for the Pittsburgh Steelers, perhaps none is so vital as the inside linebacker. Lawrence Timmons appears now to have a strangle-hold on really either side, meaning the ‘buck’ or ‘mack’ inside linebacking positions.
He is coming off a Pro Bowl-caliber season and really his first where he could consistently concentrate on staying inside rather than having to play outside due to injuries to LaMarr Woodley and/or James Harrison. The consistency showed this year in his play, but it’s the spot opposite him now that is in question.
When Larry Foote stepped in for the retired James Farrior, it was assumed he’d take over the ‘buck,’ meaning he’d call the formations and set the defense and Timmons would slide into the ‘mack.’ As it turned out, Timmons played a great deal at the ‘buck’ and could be locked in there for the future.
Statistically, Foote had one of his finest seasons with over 100 tackles and four sacks, but he’ll be 33 this summer and is a free agent. Stevenson Sylvester, a fifth round pick will be a restricted free agent and more than likely will stay for one more year.
The Steelers haven’t exactly been active in the first round of the draft when it comes to inside backers but that could change this year depending on how things unfold. The entire 2013 draft class isn’t overly talented but it does have some depth and inside linebacker is no exception. Should Pittsburgh decide to go in this direction, here are some options…
Obviously the number one prospect has been Manti Te’o from Notre Dame who had a brilliant senior season for the Irish, but then had a miserable BCS Title game followed by the controversy about his “girlfriend dying.” While many experts don’t see Te’o falling to 17, the question is, would the Steelers still take him?
Alec Ogletree of Georgia is an interesting prospect at ILB. He’s a converted safety as recently as 2011 which has both an upside and a downside. He clearly has the speed and tackling ability to play the position but will being closer to the line cause confusion for him?
Another underclassman coming out is Kevin Minter of LSU. He is one of the faster inside backers in the draft and has a good first step but does he have the size necessary to play inside for the Steelers? What I like about Minter is that he is a natural tackler and a guy who creates turnovers too. Is he first round worthy is the question.
There is most certainly a lot of time between now and the draft so any inside backer could rise or fall drastically with a good or bad workout or combine. As of right now, these are the only three I can see going in the first round.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.