Steelers Draft Needs – Outside Linebacker
Earlier in the offseason, we took a position-by-position look at where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand with their roster before the free agency process both ravaged and replenished the talent pool.
The Steelers entered the process with 22 free agents. They re-signed six of them, while losing eight more to other teams, with eight remaining unsigned. They also added seven free agents from other teams.
With the roster picture now much clearer and draft needs much easier to determine, it’s time to revisit those positional draft charts to see which positions are areas of need come draft time.
The next position we’ll revisit will be outside linebacker. The Steelers chose to hitch their wagon to the younger, ascending option in Jason Worilds, letting LaMarr Woodley go after failing to show that he could play healthy. They also signed Arthur Moats for depth.
Jason Worilds: Now the veteran of the staff, Worilds only turned 26 in March, so he should be just stepping into his prime now. After the early disappointment of being benched for Jarvis Jones, Worilds reclaimed his starting spot and then shifted over to left outside linebacker, where his season really got underway.
He made great strides in his game down the stretch last season, notching five of his eight sacks in the last six games that he played before missing the finale. More than that, he became adept at getting to the quarterback and bringing him down, influencing passes even when it didn’t go down as a sack. But his greatest improvement came in his play against the run. He’ll need to show that it wasn’t a fluke and that he can keep it up. But’s he’s still under contract for just this year.
Jarvis Jones: Last year’s first draft selection, Jones was thrust into the spotlight sooner than he should have been. He probably would have been in the opening day starting lineup had he not suffered a chest injury in the preseason finale. His debut as a starter came in the second week of the season instead, and he stayed there until he suffered a concussion and missed a game. From then on he was relegated to rotational duty until Woodley was injured.
Jones has a long way to go in his pass rush. It’s something that he knows very well, as he’s spoken about it multiple times, even during the season. While he’s shown some promise against the run and flashed potential to be a playmaker, he still has a lot to show, and year two is the year to show it.
Arthur Moats: Moats played in every game for the Bills last year, starting 12 of them. He’s capable of playing all linebacker positions, but given realistic depth needs, he’ll likely be asked to play outside before he’s needed inside. He hasn’t been asked to rush the passer much—even less so in recent seasons—but he seems capable of doing it, and he holds up against the run.
Chris Carter: Chris Carter could be looking at his last training camp in Pittsburgh if the Steelers choose to draft an outside linebacker, which seems like a moderate probability. He’s been given a couple chances to show what he can do, and he hasn’t delivered. If he hadn’t notched a couple sacks in the preseason finale, he may not have even made the roster in 2013.
Draft Prognosis: While they have the two pieces in place that they’ll take to the field, as unproven as they might be, there certainly is value to be had in adding additional talent to the key pass rushing position, which has been lacking for three seasons now.
While Worilds has shown at times that he can be impactful in the passing game, Jones only has one real pressure of note against a rookie quarterback and a meaningless sack over a running back to show for his rookie season.
If the Steelers can stumble upon a dynamic pass rusher who could contribute immediately, they shouldn’t look past him, especially with a long-term deal with Worilds still in limbo. Regardless, they will likely add a body here at some point with a draft pick.