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Steelers’ Comfort In OLB Group Supported By Early Camp Returns

If the Pittsburgh Steelers feel that there are legitimate concerns about their depth at the outside linebacker position, they’re certainly not letting on, even if general manager Kevin Colbert said Monday that they had not yet ruled out anybody from being re-signed, implying that James Harrison was still an option.

Much like the wide receiver or cornerback position earlier this year, it certainly seems as though the Steelers internally are more comfortable with the stable of outside linebackers that they currently have than are outside observers.

You’ll remember, of course, all of the hand-wringing, which admittedly came even from myself, when the Steelers cleared the first two days of the 2014 NFL Draft without introducing a new wide receiver or cornerback to the team.

Pittsburgh didn’t even take an outside linebacker in the draft, and only brought in one as an undrafted free agent. In fact, they drafted two inside linebackers, although fifth-rounder Jordan Zumwalt is being flexed as an inside-outside linebacker.

Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons once found himself pressed into service at outside linebacker back in 2011 when the aforementioned Harrison missed four games due to an orbital bone fracture in his skull.

It didn’t go quite as linebackers coach Keith Butler might have drawn it up. Timmons hardly registered a tackle in those games, and got very little pressure on the quarterback, so he knows how difficult it is to play outside linebacker in this system.

Yet when he spoke about the group that the Steelers have on Sunday, he was pleased with what he was seeing—much to his relief:

“I think we’ve got enough outside linebackers now to where I’m not needed there anymore”, he told reporters, before adding, “I’m strictly inside”.

The Steelers brought in former Buffalo Bills linebacker Arthur Moats in via free agency earlier this year, and it appears that he will serve as the third outside linebacker behind Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones should either go down with an injury.

Early indications from all three have been strong. Worilds ran with the speedy Dri Archer in coverage and ended up intercepting the pass during the last practice. Jones also met with positive reviews, having done well in taking on Kelvin Beachum one-on-one and beating him with multiple techniques during drills.

Moats, too, has been opening many eyes through the early part of camp, as we have written earlier this week.

Timmons also mentioned Vic So’oto, as well as the undrafted free agent Howard Jones, as players looking to provide depth at outside linebacker along with Chris Carter.

That’s not to mention Zumwalt and Terence Garvin, both of whom would seem to be competing head-to-head to secure the Stevenson Sylvester Award, also known as the ninth linebacker that can play all four positions and contribute on special teams.

Of course, there’s still lots of camp left before we can work out just what this outside linebacker class is made of, and whether or not it could use a reinforcement like an aging former Defensive Player of the Year. But the Steelers want you to know that, as of right now, they feel they’re doing just fine off the edge.

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