Perhaps its fitting: It was in a win against Cincinnati in December 2013 that Vince Williams stood out enough to signal that stability was returning to the Steelers depth chart at inside linebacker. Four years later Ryan Shazier’s injury at Paul Brown Stadium would destabilize that spot on the Steelers depth chart at inside linebacker and the franchise is still shuffling to regain its footing.
Might they find that footing in the 2023 NFL Draft?
Steelers Depth Cart at Inside Linebacker: The (Presumed) Starters
Everyone expected the Steelers to move on from Devin Bush. And they did, without a second thought.
Who expected Robert Spillane to bolt? But bolt he did. But that didn’t stop Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin from cutting Myles Jack, the Steelers other starter from 2022 and to look outside the franchise’s comfort zone and sign not one but two inside linebackers in the form of Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts.
Holcomb brings four years and 48 games of starting experience from Washington. Elandon Roberts brings seven years of experience and 76 starts from seasons with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.
The Steelers once unexpectedly lost a free agent inside linebacker (Earl Holmes) and reacted by signing James Farrior, one of their best free agent pickups ever. They also reacted the the loss of Shazier by signing Jon Bostic who was pretty good on first and 2nd downs, but had to leave the field after that and hence had to leave town.
Are Holcomb and Roberts Farriors or Bostics? Today there’s no way to know.
Steelers Inside Linebacker Depth Chart: The Backup
In contrast, there are a few things we know about the Steelers lone backup at inside linebacker. While conceding that he wasn’t comfortable giving rookie Mark Robinson a leading role in late season contests against the Ravens and Browns, Mike Tomlin doled out rare praise complementing the rookie:
He’s a guy that likes physical confrontation. That’s the one component of his game that has never been in question, growth and development and all other areas due to youth and lack of experience is.
The Steelers drafted Mark Robinson in the 7th round of the 2022 NFL Draft as a project. Robinson played for three schools during his college career and only moved to linebacker as a senior, spending time at running back during one of his colligate stints.
Robinson was inactive for most of 2022, only seeing his first action against Carolina, but he still played 50% of the defensive snaps against the Ravens, helping shut down a running attack that had embarrassed the Steelers just 3 weeks earlier.
The Steelers also have Tanner Muse who played safety and then “linebacker” for the Seattle Seahawks. Muse is seen mainly as a special teams signing, but Pittsburgh is listing him as a linebacker.
The Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Inside Linebacker
The Steelers are thin at inside linebacker. Yes, they appear to used free agency to bring one legitimate starter and one starter capable linebacker in free agency and they have a solid up and coming rookie. But is that enough to be comfortable?
Not by a longshot. The Steelers started 2020 with Devin Bush, Vince Williams and Robert Spillane as their top three linebackers, and by December their starting duo in the middle was Avery Williamson and Marcus Allen.
Everyone remembers Ben Roethlisberger‘s horrible performance in 2020 disaster at Cincinnati, but check the running stats to see how well the Allen-Williamson duo worked out. (Yes, there’s that Cincinnati-Inside Linebacker-Steelers axis rotating again.)
Taking that into account, the Steelers need at inside linebacker going 2023 NFL Draft should be considered as High.