Today we will continue on with our offseason look at Pittsburgh Steelers free agents. We will continue to knock these breakdowns out over the course of the next few weeks as we move closer towards the start of free agency in March. Our analysis has already covered three of the Steelers veteran unrestricted free agents and today we will have a look at veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote, who will turn 33 in June.
Player: Larry Foote
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 11 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2012 Salary Cap Hit: $3,600,000
2012 Season Breakdown: When James Farrior was released last offseason many wondered if Foote would be able to fill his shoes. Not only did he fill them, he had his best statistical season of his career in 2012. The Steelers former fourth-round draft pick not only led the Steelers defense in total tackles with 113, but he was also responsible for forcing 2 fumbles and recorded 4 sacks on the season.
Stats aside, the Steelers signal caller was not without his faults, especially against the run. Yes, the Steelers defense finished fourth overall in yards allowed per rush, but Foote did miss his share of tackles and had problems stacking and shedding offensive linemen at times. In pass coverage Foote allowed a completion rate of nearly 75%. This was a result of playing quite a bit of zone underneath and the defense as a whole not providing consistent pressure. He was, however, charged with allowing 4 of the 19 receiving touchdowns scored against the defense. He also missed a few golden opportunities to add to his sack total with missed tackles and failed to corral a few tipped balls that likely should have been intercepted.
To his credit Foote was only flagged once in 2012 and that was for tripping, and he only missed a play or three due to getting dinged. For the most part his ability to call the defense was spot on and he seemed adept at making sure players were lined up properly. There were times when the defense declared their assignments way too early, which in turn allowed opposing quarterbacks to check out of their original play and into another, but that is not entirely on him.
Foote still diagnoses plays well, but his first reaction step at times seemed delayed. His ability to get home on blitzes also lacks quit a bit and he was easily handled by a back or interior lineman that was assigned to pick him up. He is still quick on a straight line, but only average covering sideline-to-sideline.
With all of the above said, I think Foote gave the Steelers more than they imagined in 2012 and he should be commended for his efforts. He knows the system and was usually assignment strong even though the result might not have been a desired one at times.
Free Agency Outlook: Foote said after the season ended that he was open to returning in 2013 depending on the price. He has played outside of Pittsburgh only once and didn\’t enjoy that experience as a member of the Detroit Lions.
The Steelers enter the offseason with a huge question mark at his position. Sean Spence, the Steelers third-round draft pick last year, missed the entire season due to a knee injury suffered in the preseason and Stevenson Sylvester, the Steelers fifth-round draft pick in 2010, only played one meaningless snap on the defensive side of the ball in his third season with the team.
The Steelers might decide to move Lawrence Timmons over to strong-side in 2013 and let Spence handle the weak-side duties, assuming he recovers fully, but the depth behind the two lacks severely. The Steelers will surely draft an inside linebacker in April, but that player shouldn\’t be expected to contribute on defense until his second season, especially at the strong-side spot. Foote would be an asset as a backup next year should he be re-signed for one season, but that only comes with backup money, which in this case would be a one-year qualifying deal for the veteran minimum.
The Michigan product is unlikely to get much, if any, attention during the free agency signing period, so it wouldn\’t be shocking to see him back at Latrobe for the start of training camp if he decides he wants to play one more season. Foote is a good player to have in the lockerroom and worth bringing back on the cheap for a limited role. Right now I would put that at a 40% chance of happening as we sit here in January.
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