Minicamp Could Show Whether Steelers Plan To Keep Jordan Zumwalt Inside-Out
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt will be lining up with his teammates out on the field again for the first time since the rookie minicamp that took place shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft in early May.
But it remains to be seen where he will be lining up, and how often.
Because his college operates on the quarters system, Zumwalt had yet to graduate, and because of league regulations, he was unable to participate in the Steelers’ 10 OTA sessions over the past few weeks until he completed his school year.
Back in minicamp, however, he was lining up as an outside linebacker. While linebackers coach Keith Butler stated pretty clearly following the draft that he viewed Zumwalt as an inside linebacker, it’s also clear that the coaches do see him as a player that can be versatile.
The Steelers lacked depth at outside linebacker among their rookie and first-year players participating in that minicamp, which is the best explanation for why he spent so much time playing across from undrafted rookie pass rusher Howard Jones.
But chances are he will see the bulk of his work falling in line as a third-string inside linebacker, perhaps paired with Terence Garvin.
There’s still no great depth at outside linebacker this year either, though, and if Zumwalt is to make the 53-man roster as a ninth linebacker, then the coaches would surely like to make him capable of playing as many positions as possible.
Another factor to consider is Arthur Moats, who is also inside-outside capable, but has been stuck working on the outside with little chance for reps as an inside linebacker in part due to Jason Worilds sitting out OTAs.
Giving Zumwalt some reps outside, especially if Worilds sees any lingering effects from the minor tweak that led coaches to decide that rest is more valuable for him than reps, could afford Moats a better opportunity to get some reps inside.
That is important, because Moats could be viewed as the fifth linebacker this season—the first guy off the bench across the unit should an injury arise.
With Worilds sitting, Chris Carter and Vic So’oto made up the second-string defense at the outside linebacker position through the majority of OTAs.
While it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of them proves to be a viable third or fourth option as an edge rusher, adding Zumwalt to the competition would only be beneficial to the process.
Zumwalt played in a similar defensive scheme in college, and did so at both inside and outside linebacker, so he comes in with an above average understanding of the defense despite being forced to miss time to finish school. The question is, will we see him at both during minicamp, starting later today?