Pre-Draft Free Agent Movements: Linebacker
The vast bulk of the offseason roster moves to be made before the draft are already completed, so now is a good time to start taking a look at how the month of March (and the early portions of April) have affected the depth chart.
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with 21 unrestricted free agents. They retained many of them, but also lost a few that they likely wished to keep, and were forced to replace them from outside the organization. The Steelers also released a few players, in addition to signing half a dozen (and counting) players from other teams.
The next position we will take a look at is linebacker, and the offseason gains and losses there that the team has experienced.
Jason Worilds: The top priority in free agency, the Steelers placed the transition tag on Jason Worilds before free agency began, and he agreed to it the next day. While a long-term contract is still pending, the decision was enough for the team to move on from LaMarr Woodley.
Worilds showed a lot of growth last season, the first time he has been asked to be a starter for reasons other than injury. The team is banking on continued growth, particularly as a pass rusher, which started to come along midway through the 2013 season.
Arthur Moats: The Steelers are seeking to add quality depth at both inside and outside linebacker, and both parties seem to believe that Arthur Moats can deliver in each area. With the more pressing concern coming at outside, however, he is more likely to spend his time there, should he see playing time on defense this season.
LaMarr Woodley: The organization made their decision between the oft-injured Woodley and Worilds, which resulted in the team releasing the former. He’s still on the books until June, however.
More significantly, the move places the spotlight on Jarvis Jones. The learning curve for him is over now and the training wheels are off. It’s his show from now on. As of now, there’s no understudy.
Larry Foote: With the surprising success of former sixth-round rookie Vince Williams in commandeering the defense from Larry Foote’s Buck position, the Steelers felt comfortable letting him go. His playing ability had been decreasing, and he missed most of the season with an injury. While he still wants to play, there hasn’t been much interest. It was time for the Steelers to move on.
Remaining Free Agents:
Stevenson Sylvester: Stevenson Sylvester was the only restricted free agent not given a tender last offseason. He re-signed later on for the veteran minimum, then was released in the first cuts after he got injured covering a punt in the first preseason game.
This was supposed to be a significant season for him, but it got derailed. He was re-signed later midseason and played special teams until he was forced to play in rather undistinguished fashion at outside linebacker in the last couple games of the year. I’m not sure his services are required any longer, especially if Sean Spence has anything to offer.
Jamaal Westerman: A late-season injury replacement signing, Jamal Westerman was brought in as the outside linebacker unit began to be hit by injuries. He never played a snap over Sylvester or Chris Carter. If the Steelers have any interest in re-signing him, it can certainly wait.