When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected two linebackers in the 2013 NFL Draft, you didn\’t need to be a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to figure out that linebacker spots on the 53 man roster were filling up quickly. One of those players right in the middle of the fight for a remaining spot is fourth-year linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, the Steelers fifth-round selection in the 2010 NFL draft.
Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler talked about Sylvester during the draft when asked if 2013 is a make-or-break year for the Utah product.
“No doubt for him,” said Butler. “He knows that. That is something I talked to him about at the end of the season I talked to all of them about this at the end of the season It doesn’t matter the reason that you are not on the field. If you are hurt like LaMarr Woodley, he was hurt. It doesn’t matter the reason that he wasn’t on the field; he just wasn’t on the field. We have to remedy where that reason is and the same thing with Sly. Sly was injured. We had little nagging injuries here and there.”
Sylvester\’s 2012 season started out with him missing the first three games after suffering a knee injury late in training camp. Once he was able to return to action, however, he only made it four games before suffering a hamstring injury that wound up sidelining him for three more games as a result. In total, Sylvester suited up for ten games in 2012 and played just one snap on defense.
The Steelers chose not to restricted tender Sylvester during this past offseason, but did re-sign him to a one-year contract for the minimum after he failed to receive any interest from other teams in free agency.
With two more young linebackers now in the fold, Sylvester will likely need to show he can play both inside and outside in order to make the final 53 man roster. Prior to suffering his knee injury last year, he did get a chance to play both inside and outside during the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he recorded three total tackles in 34 snaps played.
During the Steelers first three OTA sessions of the 2013 season, a source told me Sylvester has received reps both inside and outside with most of his reps coming with the second unit as a backup to inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. There is no reason to think that he won\’t continue to get reps with the second-team moving forward into training camp, but it will be interesting to hear whether or not he is allowed to also work at the left outside linebacker spot in addition. Especially when the preseason games get underway.
The drafting of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and inside linebacker Vince Williams means that you can currently pencil in six linebackers as locks to make the 53 man roster. Should the Steelers choose to only keep nine linebackers in total, it would most likely mean that Sylvester could be battling second-year linebacker Marshall McFadden for one of the three remaining spots up for grabs. McFadden, by the way, has been backing up Larry Foote through the first three OTA sessions and he can not only play both the MACK and the BUCK position, but call the defense as well.
Staying healthy and showing that he is position flexible in training camp would certainly help Sylvester immensely in a battle that can\’t afford to lose this summer, as he is no longer eligible for the practice squad.