Steelers Hoping Pedigree Translates To Dominance At Linebacker

After taking linebackers in the first round in consecutive drafts in 2013 and 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers now possess a core group of linebackers with about as high a pedigree as they’ve had in recent memory.

The starting lineup likely projects to have three first-round draft picks and a second-round draft pick at linebacker when the team takes the field in September.

With the eldest, Lawrence Timmons, set to turn just 28, there is the real potential for this unit to regain its former glory for years to come. Part of making that possible, however, will include working out a long-term deal with Jason Worilds.

The addition of Ryan Shazier at inside linebacker to pair with Timmons give the Steelers a dynamic and explosive set of playmakers in the heart of the defense, who can cover ground from sideline to sideline.

Shazier, especially, has game-changing speed, and the Steelers already believe that his coverage ability will be a big help to the passing defense, which will likely mean less dime packages, since Shazier wouldn’t need to come off the field on passing downs.

Worilds, the second-round pick, came on in his fourth season last year in his first extensive opportunity as a starter, following the release of James Harrison in the offseason prior. With the Steelers releasing LaMarr Woodley this year, it’s now in Worilds’ hands to become the team’s premiere pass rusher.

He seemed to be heading that way by the end of the year, recording seven of his team-leading eight sacks in the last eight games that he played. And when he wasn’t getting sacks, he was still getting to the quarterback and putting him on the ground.

Perhaps even more importantly, his work against the run became much tighter in the second half of the year after he moved from right outside linebacker to the left side. He still has room to grow, but picking up where he left off last year would be a good start.

Then there’s Jarvis Jones, the outside linebacker that was taken 17th overall by the Steelers last year. While he’ll likely never put up the sack totals that he did in college, during which he played in a defense that accentuated his rushes, he has the potential to become a good one as well.

He also made strides as the season progressed after initially getting benched for inconsistency in his assignments, finishing the season with his best game of the year.

While his pass rush only glimmered at select intervals throughout the year, he found other ways to make an impact, such as making plays behind the line of scrimmage in the run game and batting balls down at the line.

These three players all have a year or less of meaningful starting experience. It will likely take time for them to develop to their full potential and to grow as a unit. The talent, individually and collectively, is there. It’s just a matter of getting it out of them, and that may only be a matter of time.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Axe Skot

    Nothing says Steelers like a bunch of angry linebackers.

  • shawn

    Matt … little disappointed in one of your statements … now I’m not the highest guy on JJ, but to already admit defeat and think that JJ can’t reach a mere 13 or 14 sack season at his pinnacle at this early stage of his career is a little shocking … especially for a so called “One of the Special Players of the 2013 Draft” Im still holding out hope that he ends up with double digit sacks on a year in year out basis !

  • steeltown

    I think this draft and the positions targeted and ultimately selected, including the udfa’s only builds credence to the fact that they hope/plan to get a long term deal hashed out with Worilds. If that was not the case I think they would’ve been a little more diligent in bringing in another higher caliber DE/OLB

  • RASTA

    I know that we are not supposed to grade a draft immediately, ha! With seemingly the fanbases only issue being that of the Steelers perceived lack of lust for CB’s, I will humbly defer to one of our past great ones both when he says that Allen can be our new #1(injuries aside), while Taylor can be more than capable as our new #2…obviously-at least to me, and with McCain and Blake having the true confidence of Coach Lake, who got his own personal CB choice in addition in the draft to take the #5CB spot, I think we should ALL just push the needle to the positive side for the rest od the year until Lake shows us he doesn’t know what he is talking about as a coach(You will all feel so much more at peace with yourselves and your attitude for what to me looks like a friggin awesome team from top to bottom all of the sudden!)…to continue though… The man now has an Every Down Polamalu (no more calf issues) paired with the awesome Mike Mitchell, and that could be for the next few years now eh! Shamarko and Shazier, (yes, I think Shazier becomes our next Polamalu, because either Spence, Williams, or any of the other 100 talented inside pass-rushing specialists we have on the roster now will be more than fine there with his surrounding talent…obviously we all hope it will be Spence). I am nothing but positive now since our offseason acquisitions of top coaches, free-agents (Huge competition-wise!) drafted and undrafted players, and X-men, who will all be considered Top 5 at their positions sooner rather than later. Go Steelers!

  • WilliamSekinger

    Very well said Rasta

  • Matthew Marczi

    I honestly don’t if I see him as a double-digit sack guy. I don’t necessarily think that’s horrible, either, but I would love to be wrong anyway.

  • cencalsteeler

    Love your statements and positive attitude!! This offseason really went about as well as one could ask for. This roster now has put us up there where we can truly be a competitive force in the NFL and may have leapfrogged us back up to elite status.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I think that with all this talent it will only make our players better and more angry and hungrier which hopefully gets jj to play with more passion STEEL SHARPENS STEEL!

  • shawn

    Really ?? than why did we pick him up, i thought it was for his play making and pass rushing ability … u thinking the FO made a bad pick ?

    Isn’t OUR defense predicated on the OLBs getting double digit sacks ( not just sacks, but pressure and hurries as well) ?

  • Hp B

    Very interesting thought, Shazier at Safety.
    I thought the same thing about Spence before the injury.
    Big fast safeties are the new trend.

  • RASTA

    Exactly my thoughts about Spence’s future as well. Now I see that as Shazier’s future, with Spence hopefully taking the ILB b/u spot now, and starting when Polamalu hangs them up and Shazier can move to safety for us. Go Steelers!