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.