With every draft comes opportunity, and the Pittsburgh Steelers ability to win another Super Bowl during the Roethlisberger era hinges on their ability to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 2015 NFL Draft in a couple of key positions.
Outside linebacker is one of them, and with the 2015 NFL Draft two days away Steel Curtain Rising turns its attention to the Steelers draft needs at outside linebacker.
Analyzing Steelers Depth at Outside Linebacker – The Starters
Defining exactly who is the starter and where at outside linebacker is a challenge for the Pittsburgh Steelers now, and that is a problem.
Jarvis Jones is the incumbent starter at right outside linebacker, and the assumption is that he’ll stay in that role in 2015. Even if Jones does start, he represents a huge question mark on the depth chart. Arthur Moats also returns, and word his he’ll have first crack at the Steelers left outside linebacker.
- Then there’s James Harrison, who is returning.
Will Harrison split time with Jones? Will he play ahead of Jones? Will he move over to the left side? The Steelers appear to know that James Harrison cannot and should not be counted on to play 1,000 snaps. But Moats is not the long term answer there, and Jones remains a HUGE question mark heading into his third year.
Analyzing Steelers Depth at Outside Linebacker – the Back Ups
Behind the “three starters” at Outside Linebacker, the Steelers have Shawn Lemmon whom they’ve signed from the CFL. Howard Jones returns after an impressive training camp and apprentice year on the practice squad.
They also have Jordan Zumwalt whom they picked in the 2014 NFL Draft. Terence Garvin was also listed as a possible OLB candidate last year although he never saw action. And, if it makes anyone feel better about depth at OLB, the Steelers also signed fformer Miami Hurricane Shayon Green.
Anytime you have this many questions at one position heading into a draft, it is by definition a priority. Outside linebackers have long been the mainstay of the Steelers pass rush, and their absence there has been keenly felt as the Steelers defense has struggled over the last few years. First the struggles appeared in the lack of turnovers, followed by a statistical drop in performance.
- Even if Jarvis Jones can show himself to be an impact player, the Steelers need to improve at outside linebacker.
And they must do so urgently.
It would be spectacular if Shawn Lemmon shows he can do it in the NFL and if Howard Jones flashes that he can grow into the next James Harrison. But the Steelers can’t count on those things happening. They need to draft an outside linebacker, and they need to do it early. Outside linebacker’s priority status for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2015 NFL must be considered High.