The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their final OTA practice of the 2012 off-season at Heinz Field and afterwards linebackers coach Keith Butler addressed the media to talk about his group.
Butler was first asked about how Jason Worilds is doing, being as he has sat out all three OTA sessions thus far. “He\’s healing,” said Butler. “He had surgery on his wrist, the same thing that I had when I played, except back then they fused mine. They\’re not fusing his. His going to have full range of mobility hopefully when it\’s done. So it\’s just taking some time to heal. We want to be sure about it so when we get into training camp he\’s ready to go.”
Butler was then asked if indeed Worilds would be ready by training camp. “We\’re hoping,” so said Butler. “Who knows? Wrist can be anything, so we\’ll see, we\’ll see.”
Butler was asked about the injury specifically. “It is what they call a scapholunate diastasis to be exact,” said Butler. He further explained the injury, “What it is, your wrist has got several bones in it and a ligament tore between those two bones, the scapho and the lunate, in the wrist. And when that happens, they\’ve got to reconstruct the ligament, and it takes time to heal to get the full range of motion.”
When asked when Worilds suffered the injury, Butler said, “He did it in the season, and you can play with it in the season. It\’s not a very painful injury, but it\’s a nuisance type injury that you\’ve got to live with for the rest of the year and try to get it taken care of in the off-season, and that\’s what he\’s done.”
Butler was next asked about James Harrison missing time during the OTA sessions. “Well, he\’ll be here next week along with LaMarr (Woodley),” said Butler. “Everybody will be here. James had a little fluid on his knee. We\’re not winning the World Championship right now, we\’re going to win it when we go to training camp. We want him there for training camp, to get ready for training camp and we want him there when we play on Sundays.”
The questioning then turned to the young linebackers that were impressing so far and Butler singled out Adrian Robinson and Brandon Hicks, but cautioned that a lot of players look good in shorts. When asked about third round draft pick Sean Spence specifically, Butler said, “He\’s coming along well. Very sharp young man and is picking up our system as well as anybody has at this point.”
Butler was asked if Spence would be a special teams player only this year or if he would get a chance to play some as a rookie. “He\’s shown me some things that he can pick up mentally,” said Butler. “I wouldn\’t say he\’s not going to play. The fact of the matter is, since I\’ve been here we\’ve never had a rookie play or start for us as a rookie. Not Lawrence Timmons, not LaMarr Woodley, not anybody. So we\’ll see with him. He might not start, but he\’s probably going to get some playing time, like Lawrence did and like LaMarr did. They got some playing time as rookies, but they weren\’t starters.”
Butler was asked next about Chris Carter, the Steelers fifth round draft pick from last year, who is finally getting his first taste of off-season work because of the lockout last year. “He\’s coming along very well, coming along very well,” said Butler. “I wish we would have had the same off-season we had with Jason Worilds last year. Jason Worilds really improved during the season last year, because that\’s the only time he got reps. At least this year, with Chris being in his second year, this is a vital time in my mind for these young guys, because they have somewhat of an idea what\’s going on now and we get a better evaluation.”
Butler wasn\’t the only member of the organization talking about linebackers on Thursday, as General Manager Kevin Colbert also talked about the position during his interview with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan on the Movin The Chains radio show, which can be heard on SiriusXM Radio.
Colbert was asked about the selection of Spence and how he didn\’t seem to be a fit for the Steelers system. “Sean kind of went through a transformation with the new staff at Miami. His first three years they were mostly run and avoid and use your speed. The last year they tried to be more of a take-on kind of approach for the linebackers and Sean did pretty good at that, ” explained Colbert. “I mean he\’s not the biggest guy, but he\’s got a nice power base to him. He\’s got a big lower body. So you can always add upper body strength, and it\’s not like he\’s deficient in those areas either. Its just a matter of learning the technique and learning when to take-on and learning when to avoid. He\’s extremely extinctive and very athletic, so we think that he can play the MACK backer, our weak inside backer. If he had to play BUCK, and take on people play-in and play-out, he\’d probably have some trouble. He\’s really actually a little heavier than Larry Foote was when we took Larry in 2002, and Larry developed into a 10-year NFL linebacker. So we think Sean can do the same types of things, because he\’s certainly smart enough to learn any linebacker spot or any defense. I think he\’s got a chance.
Colbert was asked if down the road he thought that Timmons might slide and take over the BUCK position. “I think it gives us those options, yes,” said Colbert. “Right now Larry Foote will man that spot and Lawrence will be inside, at the weak inside linebacker and they\’ll work together. You know Sean has a long way to go before he\’s ready for primetime, but in the meantime, at least we\’ll have some options as we progress.”
That question was followed up by one asking if both Foote and Stevenson Sylvester will compete for the starting BUCK spot this year. “Yeah, we have Larry and we have Stevenson Sylvester, who had a good rookie year, especially on special teams,” said Colbert. Last year he had a little bit of a knee problem that nagged him and held him back for the season. They\’ll come in and they\’ll compete for that spot. Of course Larry is a veteran, and he will be ahead of him right now, but Sly will definitely give him some competition, because like I said, the rookie year we were kind of excited in him, but last year he had a couple of setbacks.”