Steelers Might Have To Wait Until The Later Rounds To Draft An Inside Linebacker

The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly could use an inside linebacker in the upcoming 2013 draft as position is mighty thin and likely to get thinner depending on the ability of Sean Spence being able to come back from the knee injury that he suffered last preseason.

Should Larry Foote ultimately end up being re-signed, and it looks like he will be, the Steelers will only have him and Lawrence Timmons as the two inside linebackers with serious game experience underneath their belts. Stevenson Sylvester, a restricted free agent that is expected to be tendered soon, has yet to play 100 snaps on the defensive side of the football since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft.

If you look back at the last five years of the draft you will see that “true” inside and middle linebackers normally aren\’t highly sought after in the first round. Sure, Luke Kuechly was selected just last April with the 9th overall selection by the Carolina Panthers, but he was more than worthy of that selection. There is not an inside linebacker in this draft like him.

In 2010 the Oakland Raiders drafted Rolando McClain 8th overall. In 2009 the Houston Texans drafted Brian Cushing 15th overall and in 2008 the New England Patriots drafted Jerod Mayo 10th overall.

When you look at the top middle linebackers this year the list is short and it includes Alec Ogletree, Manti Te\’o and Kevin Minter. Ogletree has character issues for starters and many teams might see him more as an outside linebacker prospect in a 4-3. Te\’o has well documented issues, including poor play in the National Championship game, while Minter lacks speed.

Of the three listed, Ogletree is likely the only sure-fire first round guy, depending of course on how teams see him from a character risk factor. Sure, Te\’o and Minter might sneak into the first round, but judging by history and their intangibles, I think you could very well see both slide to the second round.

So what does this mean for the Steelers? Should either Te\’o or Minter slide to the second round when they pick, they will have a big decision to make. Do they think that they can “fix” Te\’o? Is Minter a player they can pencil in as a starter after he plays on special teams as a rookie? Of the two, Minter would have my vote, but I have a feeling that he won\’t drop that far.

As we sit here in late February I would bet that the Steelers hold off a few rounds before addressing the inside position. They might even double up at the position should they be able to grab the injured Michael Mauti later on for a good value. He would be a risky pick, but the heart and drive is definitely there.

As I also pointed out recently, this wouldn\’t be a bad year to try and find the next James Farrior via free agency. The only problem with that is the fact that they likely won\’t have much cap room to work with. That means shopping on the cheap. I threw out the name of Minnesota Vikings inside linebacker Erin Henderson as a possibility, but that depends on if the Steelers see him as the same fit that I do and the price.

The Steelers certainly have several needs heading into this draft, but unless Minter falls to the second round, I have a feeling that the inside linebacker position won\’t be filled until the later on in the draft.

  • Kusko_Ken

    A wise man once said, “you can’t fix stupid.”

  • SOnMyChest

    At this point I am in favor of the Steelers drafting the best MLB in the second round. Before this morning I had the Steelers taking Sio Moore in the second round. I believe Te’o, Minter, or Moore will be the best player available at 48.

  • Superdriller316

    There are a lot of teams that need ILB. With players retiring and teams switching to 3-4, you need to get one when you can. We don’t have any back up worth a damn and need a Buck. If we don’t get the best we can and settle for less, we will be in the same place we are now. Your not going to pick up a smart physical ILB later in the draft. Yes, we also need an OLB too, but they are all through the draft and if we get the other fat ass putting pressure on the QB, Worilds will be fine on the other side.

  • CW

    Personally this is why I’m for trading back in the first round from 17th overall and picking up an additional draft pick or two. Too many teams are shifting to 3-4, so waiting on an inside linebacker could end up with another 5th round wash out like Stevenson Sylvester. Minter makes sense near the back of the 1st round for instance and adding another 2nd round pick or a 3rd and a 5th for instance if the Steelers trade back far enough would give the team extra picks to get a developmental OLB as well as a solid left guard. The Steelers need to rebuild some significant parts of this team and they are going to need to add some safeties this draft too as both current starters are closing on retirement whether we fans want to believe it or not.

    Worilds, I believe, might finally be ready to be a starter and the Steelers should give him the shot. Worst thing that could happen is the Steelers have a mediocre season, go 8-8 again and draft a future OLB in the first.

  • RMSteeler

    Would have to watch game tape, but there looked to be plenty of very good looking ILB’s not named Minter, T’eo, or Ogletree. In fact those three looked so stiff, I wouldn’t take any of them in any round. Those three will struggle with playing coverage and they’re not old, washed up veterans. And T’eo will struggle in the run, too. Hope the Ravens take him. Combine opened my eyes today, and not in the 40. Some great overall ILB prospects to be had in the mid rounds. Find the smartest one so he doesn’t have to wait until his contract year to see the field! The only team I can see who would trade up is Seattle. Not a good year to be where the Steelers are, but hopefully they can work some magic and get a play maker in the first. Picking higher after the first round should be good for value afterwards.

  • Bob Francis

    From what I’m reading, it doesn’t sound like any ILB is worth pick 17. I agree with Dave – if T’eo or Minter are around in Round 2, you think about it. But there’s much better value at other positions in Round 1. Maybe this is where you get a small school sleeper in the mid-rounds or go via free agency.

  • dgh57

    What about Cornelius Washington? Is he a ILB or OLB? I like what he did in the combine.

  • LucasY59

    I think he is more of a OLB, was a later rd guy I had on my list before the combine, may have moved up from 6/7th to a 5th with his performance

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Hopefully the Steelers draft Josh Reddick in round 3 (or sooner). Problem solved.

  • Te’o 4.82, Minter 4.81, Ogletree 4.7 No thanks! Larry Foote ran a 4.8 and was drafted in the 4th. Sounds like a good spot to pick his replacement.

  • CW

    Well if speed is the issue for the inside linebacker position, then drafting Jon Bostic in the 3rd or 4th would seem to be a solid move.

    4.61 40, 6.99 3 cone, 4.24 20 yard shuttle, 22 reps, 32.5 vert jump, 116.0 broad jump. One of the better inside linebacker prospects at the 40, 3 cone, and 20 yard shuttle.

    Still think it would be a good idea to trade back from 17th to pick up additional draft picks.

  • Jeff Johnson

    If they trade back then they have less of a chance to draft one of the top pass rushers. Unless you don’t mind a 2 to 3 year project at OLB again.

  • Jeff Johnson

    You sure 100% Worilds will be fine on the other side? Pass Rusher is a bigger need and the lack of a pass rush has hurt them the past two seasons in the turnover department. Yes, they need an ILB but he will not help with the pass rush.

  • Jeff Johnson

    I agree with you. The best ILB in the 2nd round

  • CW

    Worilds is either ready or he’s not this coming year. There’s little chance that any OLB taken even in the first round will play this year so might as well draft someone like Margus Hunt or John Simon in the second or third round, two college defensive ends that would convert to a 3-4 OLB in the Steelers system. In either case the assignments are different enough from college to the Steelers system that it is at least a one year project anyway.

  • Nolrog

    I don’t think Te’o would slide past Baltimore. They need an ILB desperately, and could possibly overdraft to get one.

  • grw1960

    Later rounds I will agree with. There seems to be a lack of clear cut talent at ILB available. The next best thing is to try and find a sleeper LB.
    Doubtful if the Steelers select a LB in the 2nd round.

    The 2nd round will have too much WR and Safety talent in to pass on both of them.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    If we go draft I have 4 later round guys
    #1 Beauharnais Rutgers mid round grade does everything well…nothing great
    #2 Klein Iowa mid round grade had a great combine and senior bowl
    #3 Mauti PSU mid to late grade He is a top ILB…..HEALTHY!!! Thats the problem
    #4 Molls Toledo late round grade very productive and athletic. A project

    would take Minter late 1st but would like to see a more dynamic player but feel he would be a Foote like player for years for us.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Reddick is a dynamic player and think he will go earlier than we think especially since Ogletree is off many teams boards.

  • HarryBackside

    ILB’s aren’t highly sought after. Kueckly went high, but didn’t even play ILB once he got to the NFL! The Panthers played him at weak side OLB.

    I don’t think the Steelers are going to draft a true inside LB. The have trended towards converting college OLB’s into NFL ILB’s. Timmons, Sly and Spence all played OLB at the college level. I realize not everyone worked out, but it gives you an idea of their preferred skill set. There were plenty of LB prospects with good size. Sio Moore could probably kick inside.

  • HarryBackside

    That’s fine. I’m not impressed by any of the top pass rushers. Most of them weren’t very productive in college, and don’t look powerful enough to be successful against NFL OT’s. Everyone wants to compare these guys to Aldon Smith. The problem with that comparison is that Smith was a very powerful looking 263 lbs for his combine workout. Everyone want to say that guys like Mingo and Jordan will get bigger when they get to the NFL, as if getting bigger is so easy, which begs the question, why are they waiting until they get to the NFL to add mass?

  • HarryBackside

    I don’t know what makes a guy like Mingo a better prospect than Jamie Collins. Collins looks every bit as athletic, is raw, and played standing up in college. He also did something that Mingo hasn’t done, which is actually produce as a pass rusher.

  • HarryBackside

    The Steelers only have two ILB’s under contract, and one of them may never play football again. Colbert has said publically that they were happy with Worilds when he stepped in this past season, and LeBeau is very high on Adrian Robinson. Even if the Harrison walks, the Steelers have players who can start in 2013, and depth behind them. They have A starter at ILB.

    ILB is a much bigger need.

  • HarryBackside

    Good call on Moore. Timmons, Sly and Spence were all OLB’s in college. I think the Steelers prefer guys who have more athleticism than what most college ILB’s are bringing to the table. Also, the Steelers don’t take their LB’s off the field in nickle situations. Most of the college ILB’s are two down players who come off in passing situations, so they won’t work for us. Moore looks like he has the size and strength to move inside, with the athleticism of an OLB. Seems like the kind of guys the Steelers like.

  • HarryBackside

    He’s a rush LB. He has all the tools to succeed as a 34 OLB, he just hasn’t been able to put it together.

  • Yes, depending on cap space the Henderson signing as a FA combined with drafting Mauti on day 3 would make a lot of sense to me. It would also be nice if Sly or one of these future contract guys like Rolle can surprise the heck out of us.

  • steeltown

    Thats what I’m hoping on.. not Sylvestor.. but Brian Rolle or Marshall Mcfadden who led the Team in tackles last preseason and was also promoted to the 53man roster after Chris Carter went on IR.. he ultimately was signed back the PS i believe to make room for Burress

    Dont get me wrong, we still need to draft ILB, but Im hoping Rolle or Mcfadden can secure the other backup spot

  • steeltown

    I have to agree on both points.. unless a gem falls to us #17, trading back makes alot of sense with all of the 2nd and 3rd Rd talent

    I also believe Worilds needs to start, we might as well see what he has, I dont doubt he could get 8-10sacks as a full time starter, maybe more, plus he’s cheap for one more season. We need to start playing the young guys and in turn save money

  • Superdriller316

    Worilds played on limited snaps. Are you going to bench someone who’s making 7-10 million dollars and play someone who makes around 1 million? No… With his limited snaps Worilds got more sacks than the guy that was starting. The only way Worilds doesn’t start is if James taks a pay cut and stays. So ILB is the biggest need we have.

  • steeltown

    If Harrison stays, he starts.. if Harrison leaves, Worilds starts.. there is no way a rookie OLB will start this season over Harrison or Worilds. Unless they got Bjoern Werner, Dion Jordan or Domantre Moore (which is almost zero chance) and even then they would still probably start Worilds

  • SteelSpine

    I think multiple other position needs of ours are higher priority than ILB anyway, even before the combine’s results. I’m in the camp of what I’ve read others indicate in past which is we pay LeBeau, so LeBeau can make one ILB out of the several LB bodies we have who haven’t done much anyway. Use our first 4 rounds instead on other positions, which we badly need. Give LeBeau 1 more camp & preseason with the plenty of young LBs who have not played much: Sylvester, BJohnson, Worlids(only if we have Harrison, could try Worilds at starting ILB), Marshall McFadden, Chris Carter, Adrian Robinson, etc. Sure it’s easy for a fan to discredit 1 or 2 of those names for ILB, but it’s a handful of names so odds are LeBeau could make an ILB out of one of them.

  • steeltown

    Would love to get Sio Moore

  • steeltown

    Good at the line of scrimmage and in pass coverage, good tackler.. would be a great fit

  • steeltown

    Foote will be re-signed and I definitely think Brian Rolle and M.Mcfadden will be big time competitors this training camp for one of the backup ILB spots

    Still hope they draft an ILB at some point.. because I think Sly and B.Johnsons days are numbered

  • mghjr88

    It’s safe to say Jonathon Bostic of Florida and Cornelius Washington of Georgia improved their draft stocks at the combine

  • Arthur Brown where is this guy projected to go?

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Agreeing. At end of 1st if Teo still available, I picture everybody covering the draft will say Balt will take Teo to replace Ray Lewis then the audience there erupts hearing that announcement. Notice a 1st round rookie can start there, but not for LeBeau.

  • markthom

    I like Sio and Zaviar Gooden

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    i love the steelers to death but my biggest problem with them is how they go about drafting and letting the defensive guys that they just drafted sit and i said that to say this i understand lebeau 3-4 is complicated but maybe its because they always draft de and turn them into lbs and let them sit and learn why not draft lbs that actually play lbs in a 3-4 that way they already have a grasp of their position and start 1st year