I posted the other day about the questions at the BUCK linebacker spot now that James Farrior has been released, and how Larry Foote would be the obvious choice to succeed Farrior initially. Stevenson Sylvester, who I really think is better suited for the MACK linebacker position based on his limited playing time the last two seasons, will apparently get a shot to compete against Foote for the starting BUCK spot according to Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert today.
Colbert, who is currently down in Florida at the owners meetings, was on SiriusXM NFL Radio today and he talked about the open spot inside now that Farrior is gone as well as the open outside left cornerback spot now that William Gay has signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Colbert told Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan, “Yeah, inside we\’ve had Larry Foote the last two seasons as a real good insurance policy and Stevenson Sylvester, a kid we drafted a couple of years ago, will compete with Larry for James\’ spot. With William moving on, we have Keenan Lewis, who was another restricted free agent, who was our third defensive back last year. And we drafted two kids, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, who showed some things last year that maybe they all in some form or fashion… we\’ll try to handle this from within.”
It is obvious in that brief quote that he thinks Sylvester can compete for the BUCK role with Foote, so that is one battle that we can begin watching right away when mini-camps and OTA sessions get going. Sylvester, as I have mentioned several times previously, only has just over 70 defensive snaps to his credit in his two years in the league thus far. A handful of those are even hard to include in the snap stats as they were kneel down type plays. I was expecting Colbert to at least mention the name of Mortty Ivy, but that was not the case.
Foote has experience on his side, but at least Sylvester will now get a full offseason worth of work in that he missed last year due to the lockout. I have faith that Sylvester understands the defense and both roles inside, but it is the execution of the BUCK role that we have yet to see on tape yet. Can he take on blockers in the hole and shed them fast enough to impact the play? One of the knocks on him coming out of college was that he possessed average strength at the point of attack and didn\’t play well in tight spaces. His coverage skills were one of his strong points however.
Being as Foote is much better right now in my opinion at taking on blockers and is not as strong in coverage, you wonder if we might see some sort of platoon system depending on down and distance next season to better take advantage of the skill set of both players. It is highly unlikely to happen and a very far-fetched suggestion this far out I admit, but it is something to think about during the offseason at least. Foote is not a three down inside linebacker anymore and based on the limited playing time that Sylvester received last year, neither is he.
You can bet that this is one of the things I will be monitoring closely when training camp and preseason get going. The cornerback positions I am not too worried about as I feel Lewis, Allen and Brown will all be fine in their second year under defensive backs coach Carnell Lake.