Jack Ham. Greg Lloyd. Joey Porter. James Harrison. That’s one NFL Hall of Famer, a Defensive Player of the Year on a Super Bowl Champion, and two hell raisers who could will their teams to victory.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers laid the foundations for defensive dominance with outside linebackers for generations.
Do the Steelers already have their next stud outside linebacker on their roster? How you answer that question defines the Steelers draft needs at outside linebacker for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Steelers Depth Chart @ Outside Linebacker Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – the Starters
Who were the Steelers “official” starters at outside linebacker in 2015? Research could officially answer that question quickly, but the truth is the question is academic. The Steelers defensive snap counts per Sportscharts.com reveal why:
- James Harrison played 55% of defensive snaps
- Bud Dupree played 50% of defensive snaps
- Arthur Moats played 50% of defensive snaps
- Jarvis Jones played 40% of defensive snaps
Keith Butler and Joey Porter used an outside linebacker by committee formula in 2015 and it worked.
- James Harrison hasn’t officially signaled that he’ll return in 2016, but everything indicates he will.
Steelers Nation should celebrate. As Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell pointed out, James Harrison still has the ability to “do it” as evidenced by his twin sacks in two playoff games and his skillful tackle for a loss that forced a 3 and out in the Steelers playoff loss to the Broncos.
- At age 38, James Harrison’s 5 sacks were enough to tie for 3rd on the team.
Arthur Moats doesn’t get a lot of ink, but he quietly tied rookie Bud Dupree with four sacks. Even if fantasy football found some way to give defense its just due (which it doesn’t), Moats might not be a hot commodity, but he’s a consistent outside linebacker who plays smart. Bud Dupree started off strong with sacks in 3 of the Steelers first five games, and then 4 in the Steelers first 8. Dupree was quiet after that, but he played well for a rookie.
- The big mystery is Jarvis Jones.
Jones earned the starting nod in 2013, yet Dick LeBeau’s defense proved to be too much for the young man, and he found himself on the bench. Jones’ 2014 season was ruined by injury. 2015 was supposed to be his break out year…
…Yet Jones only notched 2 sacks in the 2015v regular season.
Jones has had no shortage of advocates arguing that he’s done well in other areas on the defense. And Jones most certainly stepped it up in the playoffs, recording a crucial strip-sack vs. the Bengals.
And while Ryan Shazier and Ross Cockrell rightly get credit for forcing and recovering the fumble on Jeremy Hill, people forget that Jarvis Jones made the tackle from across the field to set the turnover up and the Steelers playoff win over the Bengals
Steelers Depth Cart @ Outside Linebacker Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – Backups
Behind their starting quartet the Steelers have 2015’s 6th round pick Anthony Chickillo. Anthony Chickillo didn’t play much in 2015, but did recovery a key fumble that Roosevelt Nix forced in the Steelers nail-biter win over the Oakland Raiders. He also forced a fumble in the Steelers season finale victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Steelers 2016 Draft Need at Outside Linebacker
Given their depth at the position, it is almost inconceivable that the Steelers could find someone on draft day that would help them on the field at outside linebacker in 2016.
- But 2016 is not the key concern here.
James Harrison, assuming he does play, is almost certainly heading into his final NFL season. If Bud Dupree continues to build on the foundation he established as a rookie, he should provide an adequate replacement. Arthur Moats is under contract for one more year, but he is not the long term solution there.
- Is Jarvis Jones?
With three seasons under his belt, it is hard to say. Behind the Steel Curtain’s Christopher Carter, as good of a film analyst as you’ll find on the blogesphere, has analyzed tape of both Jarvis Jones against the run and rushing the passer, and sees positive signs that could lead to a breakout year.
You’ll know if Steelers management concurs, if they ignore outside linebacker until the later rounds of the draft. If the Steelers use a top three pick on an outside linebacker, Jarvis Jones is history in Pittsburgh.
Steel Curtain Rising isn’t privy to Kevin Colbert or Mike Tomlin’s thinking, and will make a leap of faith in Jarvis Jones to conclude that the Steelers 2016 draft need at outside linebacker must be considered moderate low.