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Steelers Ready To Rolle On Without Sylvester?


The release of linebacker James Harrison by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday certainly wasn\'t unexpected, but the numbers of the group are definitely going in the wrong direction as we get closer to the draft.

Not only was Harrison released on Saturday, but inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester wasn\'t restricted tendered as well. While Sylvester was more than likely not going to compete for the starting BUCK spot in 2013, he was thought to be a young player that might be counted on for depth. The Steelers seem to think otherwise and appear to have moved on from their former fifth round pick.

With Larry Foote still yet to be re-signed, the Steelers are down to Lawrence Timmons and Sean Spence inside. Spence, however, is not being counted on to contribute in 2013 until we hear otherwise, because of his knee injury suffered last preseason. There are a few more inside linebackers under contract and that includes Marshall McFadden, Brian Rolle and Kion Wilson, but only Rolle has real game experience.

McFadden and Rolle might very well be the most intriguing of the two, and why the Steelers might not feel the need to address the inside linebacker position until later on in the upcoming draft.

McFadden led the Steelers in tackles during the preseason last year and will get a long look during the off-season, and every opportunity to make the 53 man roster. At the very least he should be a solid special teams contributor.

Rolle is a very interesting player, however, and one that I have finally gotten around to watching more film on. Could Rolle be the Steelers next stab at a James Farrior? It certainly appears that way and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is rumored to be very high on him in addition. After all, Rolle did go to Ohio State.

Unlike Farrior, Rolle is undersized, but he can cover quite a bit of ground in the middle and is able to take on lead blockers due to his ability to get low. He is smart and known as a leader. Former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel described him best a few years ago.

"Brian is unique," Tressel said. "He\'s probably not as big as some of the guys we\'ve had, but he\'s got tremendous instincts and fabulous leadership skills. He\'s an excellent tackler, he plays the pass very well, loves the game, loves to prepare for the game."

Rolle washed out quickly with the Philadelphia Eagles, who used him as a weak outside linebacker, just like the New York Jets did with Farrior many moons ago. When you watch both the college and pro tape of Rolle you can see how he might just fit well as the BUCK in the Steelers 3-4 defense.

Perhaps the Steelers are not as thin inside as many of us might think that they are. Perhaps they are ready to roll along with Foote and Rolle next season, and eventually Rolle long term. Perhaps the addition of Rolle is what really led to them deciding not to tender Sylvester.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Mikey Hoje

    …yeah, what Dave said; yup.

  • mokhkw

    Rolle’s description reads like Sam Mills – we should be so lucky! Good reason to watch some ’12 Pre-Season film……

    One thing about the Steelers, they always seem to have a hidden gem at LBer that we don’t know about – if ever we needed one, it’s now.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Good news after losing Silverback. I hope either Rolle or Mcfadden steps up. As far as Sylvester he got a pass his first two years and couldn’t sniff the field on Defense I think he only had one defensive snap last year. So if he’s only a special teams guy that will never become anything better I’m sure one of these guys can do the job on special teams as well as providing some depth as an ILB. Something that Sylvester wasn’t able to do

  • SteelSpine

    His 5’10″ is indeed small for pro LB & doesn’t have the great instincts Sean Spence had to make up for this lack of size. Ability to play in college is one thing, Eagles may have found out the other. But the price was right, & our coaches did make an attempt to use small Spence, so who knows.

    LeBeau will by end of preseason make a suitable ILB out of someone other than just Foote for Foote’s position, that is not hard for LeBeau if you look at LeBeau’s history.

  • JohnnyV1

    Sylvester’s biggest contribution has been on special teams, and he wasn’t a probowl level player there. I cannot see paying him $1.323 million for that role. If he were that good @ LB, he’d have started/shared the duties last year and had a first round tender or a new contract. They have some pretty good coaches & talent evaluators in Steelers head quarters last time I checked.

  • dave

    The way I look at it, they aren’t necessarily saying they don’t want Sylvester back at any price, just that they think $1.3 million is too much. I could see them re-signing him later this spring for $600K or whatever the minimum is for his length of service and having him compete for a spot on the 53 man roster in 2013.
    That said, a guy like Sylvester is probably fairly easily replaceable with another low cost free agent, or an undrafted rookie, or a later round draft pick.

  • Anon

    Slyvester has had the injury bug, but if I had to pick between Rolle, McFadden or Slyvester; and go for Sly. He was a big time college LB and if it wasn’t for injuries, he would have taken Foote’s job. What’s $1.3m when the Steelers paid $3.2m for Foote (who was the worst ILB in the NFL last season)

  • Clint Martin

    I like Spence but he has never played at this level yet.The Eagles had him playing weak outside linebacker, Not inside.

  • steeltown

    Sylvestor was never going to take over Footes BUCK spot.. im sorry, but it was never going to happen, they said he and Foote would battle it out, but it was very clear to me and many others that Sly was never more than a MACK LB and would only ever backup Timmons.

    Mcfadden is a very intriguing prospect and Rolle might be short, but he is a beast for his size, can tackle well and he is fast (they used to say Harrison was too short too) but at the very least these guys are backups and special teams guys (just like Sly) and both of them combined are cheaper than the restricted tender of Sylvestor
    Plus, who knows, they might draft an ILB as well

  • SteelSpine

    He is small for ILB in pros, & 5’10″ is short for ILB.

  • markthom

    he was a great Speacial teams players maybe not that good last yr he tore his mcl in preseason but I wanted him to have the chance to start but it didnt work that way. Rolle is a fast ass LB that is what we needed Im am glad we signed him. He is reminds me of Spence alot. We can address other position now. If C.J. Mosley was in the draft I would say do whatever we have to to get this dude but he is staying at school.

  • markthom

    They were playing Rolle @ OLB that why he wasnt excelling

  • markthom

    what? Sam mills was 5’9″ it doesn’t matter on how tall he is as long as he can tackle shed blocks and cover.

  • markthom

    Yea sux Urlacher is free would rather have signed him

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