Since Chuck Noll switched to a 3-4 defense in the early 1980’s, outside linebacking has been the mainstay of the Pittsburgh Steelers pass rush.
Yet during all of that time, regardless of whether Noll and Dick Haley, Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher, or Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been doing the drafting, the Steelers have only invested a number 1 or number 2 pick in an outside linebacker 4 times.
Look it up folks. Greg Lloyd, James Harrison, Mike Merriweather, Joey Porter, Jason Gildon and Clark Haggans were all taken after the second round. The Steelers selection 1 and 2 draft picks at outside linebacker boils down to Alonzo Jackson, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds, and Jarvis Jones.
- The Steelers needs at outside linebacker in the 2014 NFL Draft hinge on the future of the later two individuals.
If one accepts the Steelers decision making at face value, the front office has its immediate future at outside linebacker set. They drafted Jarvis Jones 1st a year ago and just wrote a 9 million dollar check to Worilds.
- If only it were so simple.
On the right side, it perhaps is. The Steelers do feel confident in Jones development or else they would not have parted ways with LaMarr Woodley so easily. Worilds is in a world of his own (pun intended.) Leery of a Keenan Lewis repeat, the Steelers weren’t confident about keeping Worilds on the open market, so they laid the transition tag on him.
- Then Worilds unexpectedly signed the transition tag without so much shopping the offer around.
The Steelers are interested in signing Worilds to a multi year deal, but it looks as if Worlids does not share their enthusiasm. The implications for the Steelers draft needs could not be more straightforward:
- If a long-term deal with Worilds can be reached, the Steelers need is low-moderate if not it rises.
But how much? In a word, a lot. Behind Jones and Worilds, the Steelers have Arthur Moats and Chris Carter. Moats is playing on a veteran minimum and could perhaps have some upside, but if he’s anything more than a serviceable back up it will be a surprise.
Gerry Dulac said in the summer of 2011, that Chris Carter, a 5th round pick, would be the “steal of the 2011 draft.” With all due respect to Carter, he’s done nothing to vindicate one of the more astute members of the Steelers press corps.
In theory, the Steelers could bring back Stevenson Sylvester to play on the outside, but if Sylvester is ever seen as the future at outside linebacker then there’s trouble in the city of three rivers.
The Steelers love to go into the 2014 NFL Draft with the luxury of forgetting about inside linebacker until very, very late if at all. Alas, their inability to sign Worilds to a long-term deal denies them that luxury.
The Steelers needs at outside linebacker therefore must be rated at Moderate High.