Having covered the Steelers needs at tight end and quarterback, running backs and wide receivers, offensive line, and defensive line, we now turn out attention to linebackers.
Steelers Needs at Outside Linebacker
With LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison the Steelers have one of the most potent 1-2 punches at outside linebacker in the NFL. They’ve got a former second round pick in Jason Worilds behind him and another raw talent in Chris Carter also waiting in the wings.
So the team is more or less set at this critical position, right?
The realities of course a little more complex.
LaMarr Woodley is locked down to a long-term contract and heading into his prime.
James Harrison however, is aging, and with each year injuries continue to take their toll. How much longer Harrison can play at normal All Pro level is an open question and, players like Harrison who perhaps have less raw athletic talent, tend to see drop offs more quickly as they age.
Many seem to be at great pains to say nice things about Jason Worilds and the effort he made in starting in place of Harrison. Steel Curtain Rising is not among those voices, however. This isn’t to say that Worilds is a bust, he’s clearly surpassed Alonzo Jackson and Bruce Davis, but his trajectory based on what he showed in 2011 is more in line with him becoming the next Carlos Emmons.
As for Chris Carter, he’s got no negatives against him. He also has few positives.
- Priority of Outside Linebacker line for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: Medium/High.
Steelers Needs at Inside Linebacker
James Farrior’s departure leaves a huge hole in the middle of the Steelers defense. One which will be difficult to fill.
Larry Foote appears to be the short term answer and in Steel Curtain Rising’s assessment, his contributions since returning in 2010 have been largely undervalued. But Foote is not the long term answer.
Lawrence Timmons is a former first round draft pick. He had a very strong year in 2010 and the Steelers rewarded him with a handsome contract.
Timmons however, did not play well in 2011. Yes he was moved around. Yes, he was playing out of position at outside linebacker. Fair enough.
But even when he was playing his natural position he didn’t make his presence know. Gone was the man who in 2011 seemed to be in on every play.
Stevenson Sylvester continues to be a special teams ace, normally a sign that a player at least has the athleticism to play. Still he had a difficult time when asked to start vs. New England. (For an excellent interview/breakdown of that effort, see Behind the Steel Curtain.)
If Sylvester can make the next step, and if Timmons can play with consistency the Steelers could be set at this position. But to quote Bob Labrolia of Steelers Digest, “Too many ifs, and that usually means its time to address the area in the draft.”
- Priority of Outside Linebacker line for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: High/Medium.