2017 Offseason Positional Review – Outside Linebacker

The season might not quite be over for another couple of days, but 30 teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, have already hit offseason mode following their elimination, either prior to or during the playoffs. Pittsburgh got quite far this year, reaching the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010

But before we get too deep into the offseason, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ roster as it appears to be shaping up as we look ahead to 2017.

As with almost every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, , so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into the offseason.

Position: Outside Linebacker

Total Positional Figure: 6

Additions: 1

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

James Harrison: It’s both impressive and disappointing that James Harrison is still the Steelers’ best outside linebacker. Impressive that he is still playing at a high level at his age, but disappointing that they haven’t found a player to match him yet.

Jarvis Jones: That player will certainly not be Jarvis Jones, who clearly looks to be on his way to a new home in 2017. Jones was virtually benched by the end of the year after they game him ample opportunity to prove himself. It’s time to move on. They have depth. They need an impact player.

Bud Dupree: Perhaps Bud Dupree will be that impact player. He showed flashes of that this past season, a year that was badly derailed by a sports hernia that required surgery and limited him to about eight games including the playoffs. He managed to put up some sacks and forced an interception in the Divisional Round.

Arthur Moats: Arthur Moats has played pretty much every role for the Steelers at this point, from being a starter, to a rotational player, to a special-teamer. He is valuable depth, but they realize by now what he is: depth.

Anthony Chickillo: I’m afraid that is also the role that Anthony Chickillo will ultimately settle in. I know there are those who hold out hope that he can cement himself as a starter—he did pass Moats on the depth chart—but I don’t see it. He can rotate, and he is a core special-teamer.

Players Added:

Farrington Huguenin: Perhaps the most interesting thing about this Reserve/Future player is that he was a teammate of Bud Dupree’s at Kentucky for three seasons. He has a pretty large build at the position, but very little production. He went undrafted last year and got injured working with the Dolphins.

Offseason Strategy: The strategy, in my view, is simple. Re-sign James Harrison and take a pass-rusher early in the draft. The top of the free agency class will be too rich for their blood and anything less is not worth investing in. They don’t need more depth. They have Moats and Chickillo. They need another piece at the top of the depth chart.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Kevin Artis

    Collectively, I think it’s the worst group of OLBs ever fielded in Steelers history.
    We need to draft at least two, sign Harrison (only because we have no choice), bring in a free agent and sign several undrafted free agents. I honestly don’t think Harrison will make it through another season.

  • VaDave

    Can we post a “Help Wanted” sign on this one?

  • Iulo

    I think PIT can do better at depth if Moats is replaced with a same level guy but cheaper… Moats is too expensive for what he is doing…
    apart from that I agree… PIT needs starter material and the only possible way to get it is in the Draft

  • Steel Realist PAul

    This is a great draft for edge guys, along with some interesting tweeners. Hard to imagine pick #30 NOT being the team’s next ROLB.

    I could see another rotation in Deebo’s future, if he’s back.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    moats makes just over 2 mill. for a quality backup. thats peanuts. shush now.

  • Jeff McNeill

    Worst ever! Lol.

  • AndyR34

    ‘When he is back’…there, I fixed it for you.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Bud is developing, we need a stud on the other side to replace James.

    As for depth, Chickillo is a really solid depth OLB, he’s versatile and solid in all areas, and he’s a good ST player. He is exactly what you want as your #3-4 OLB.

    I expect, like the article says, a top pick on a pass rusher, we need a guy who is strong and has power moves and good technique. Also we will take a project later on, because we always do.

    Our pressure comes from up the middle with Tuitt, Heyward and Hargrave, Dupree’s speed lets him blow up plays where the offense screws up, and he’s starting to show some decent pass rush moves.
    He’s never gong to be a dominant sack artist.

    That’s why the guy on the other side needs moves. He needs to have bend and counter moves and a bull rush.
    If you have a guy that can turn the corner on the QB’s blind side, pressure up the middle, and a guy on the QB’s throwing side that is fast, strong, and can annihilate roll outs or escapes to that side you have a really good pass rush.

    This is one pick that can make this team incredible. We need a big time pass rusher on that right side, and we will be in great shape.

  • Steelers12

    lol

  • RickM

    Saying the position is troubling is like saying Bradshaw says dumb things. The stat that bothered me the most recently was the one that showed Dupree only got 1 pressure every 26 or 28 pass rushes. Most of his sacks are energy sacks after the play breaks down. I’m not suggesting we do anything with Dupree other than let him develop. But we just have to find a young natural pass rusher who can equal or better Harrison’s 1 pressure per 14 pass rushes. It’s likely the third 1st-round attempt in recent years; they have to get this one right.

  • capehouse

    He actually makes a very valid point. Including his prorated bonus, Moats is on the books for $2.8 mil this year. As it stands right now that’s the 11th highest paid player for the Steelers. That will change 2 spots once Bell is franchised and Tuitt is extended, but do you seriously think that accurately reflects Moats position on the team? Once Dupree locked down the LOLB position, Moats never saw the field. Starting with the Bills game, and including the playoff games, but excluding the Browns game where all the backups played, Moats had 5 snaps in 6 games. As far as league wide, Moats’ contract makes him the 18th highest paid 3-4 OLB. That’s more than just peanuts. The Steelers can save $2.2 mil by cutting Moats. Harrison and Dupree will start and Chickillo and our #1 draft pick will be the backups.

  • capehouse

    Dupree had a good playoff run though, as Alex pointed out in his charting. He finished with 4.5 pressures, 15 tackles and a half a sack. Harrison finished with 5 pressures, 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks for comparison.

  • RickM

    He had 1/2 a sack in three playoff games. I really don’t think that’s “coming on”. As I said I like his energy and look forward to 2017, but on a pure snaps per pressure basis he was 1 in 28.8. Jarvis Jones was even better at 1 in 25. When a 38-year-old guy has a 1 in 14 ratio, Jarvis Jones is 1 in 25, and Dupree is 1 in almost 29, it’s pretty tough to argue that Dupree is a natural pass rusher. He isn’t – so far at least – and the numbers verify that. Hopefully he can develop some additional pass rush moves in the future.

  • LucasY59

    for it being so well known that the Steelers need help at OLB, I have a hard time figuring out exactly what they are going to do to get that help,

    Bringing back James looks to be a necessity (even if they get a potential superstar OLB with the 1st pick) he will be a guy they can count on (and when they were one game away from the SB they need a Vet they can count on)

    Bud is the future at LOLB and Chickillo seems to be solid depth behind him, so that makes Moats expendable IMO (he cant be the highest (or even 2nd highest) paid OLB on the team when would likely be #5 on the depth chart

    so obviously they are drafting a OLB (maybe two? which is why Moats is not a roster lock) where/who they draft is the bigger ?, guys like Charles Harris and Takkarist McKinley seem like the favorites to be the 1st pick (and so far, from what I have seen I am good with either *Takk is my fav though) if they dont go OLB in the first there is decent depth that they could get one later, Guys like TJ Watt, Derek Rivers, Carl Lawson, or Jordan Willis could be had in the 2nd, and guys like Joe Mathis or Ejuan Price could be great options for doubling up at the position later

    there are also options for drafting guys that arent typical 3-4 OLBs,

    guys like Haasan Reddick or Tyus Bowser are guys that lined up on the edge in college, but are undersized and also look to be above average athletes for the position, so they could be used in multiple ways on the field and their versatility would be very helpful, I think Reddick is going to show elite athleticism and will require the 1st rd pick, Bowser could do pretty well also and that would make him a candidate for the 2nd, both have no experience at the position they are projected to play (ILB) so they may be around later than their measurables could project them but not much since the potential for them to become a standout player is pretty good (combine is huge for these players) and like I said they would have versatility so they could be used on the edge at some times if needed as well, the team has already had interest in similar players Shazier (and Feeney from last yrs draft) so I do think the Steelers will still have interest in drafting another (especially since Feeney was poached off the PS last yr so the need is still there)

    They could also go in the opposite direction and look for a 4-3 DE type that is also an above average Athlete for his size, a guy like Tanoh Kpassagnon could be an option to be that type of player, he should be able to test well at the combine even though he is close to 6’7″ and 280lbs, I think he could even drop in coverage and play as a OLB some, but would be most useful as a edge guy on sub packages where they use a 4 man front, his size could even make him useful as a base 3-4 DE, he has plenty of length to be a 5 tech so he could be DL depth as well, and I could even see him being fairly successful as a interior pass rusher as well, he would have speed to beat OGs and again long enough arms/leverage to keep the blockers off him and those long arms could also block passing lanes and knock down passes if he doesnt get to the QB, he is a bit raw/undeveloped and also comes from a small school so I think there is a chance he could be available in the 3rd, but there is also a very good chance that he could go as soon as the early 2nd rd

    the last option to helping the OLB position could be to look for FAs, but most good ones will be expensive and the Steelers dont really have the cap space (or go after big $ FAs) so I dont think they will do so, there are a few lower tier FAs like John Simon they could be interested in but that would only fill a need for depth not fix the bigger problem

  • popsiclesticks

    I cut Moats every time I do one of those offseason simulator things. They are in better cap shape than usual but it’s still not like they have a ton of room to play with after resignings.

  • Dshoff

    One draft mag has Tanoh going in the 4th round. He looks pretty impressive for a 4th round pick!

  • Dshoff

    HUGE amount of talent in the draft at OLB. We need to pick two of them, and I wouldn’t even mind if we went OLB 1 and 2. We won’t though, since we have Dupree.

  • LucasY59

    yeah I think he will do well at the combine and that will hype him up (already getting extra attention from his week at the senior bowl) if he stayed a somewhat unkown guy from a small school that needs to develop some more, he could last until the 4th (and then he would be a great pick) but I expect him to go no later than the 3rd (or at least if he was available when the Steelers pick I would hope they take him, could be 2 yrs in a row with a DL from the FCS level that could help the team (in ways they dont normally use or look for from DL) Hargrave was not the typical NT, and Kpass would not be the traditional DE)

  • Conserv_58

    After watching how the Steelers defense got thoroughly owned by the patriots, AGAIN, there is little doubt as to where their draft day priorities lie. If this team wants to get to and win their seventh Lombardi they have no choice, but to go heavy on the defensive side of their team in the draft. Defense wins championships and the Steelers’ defense is not a championship defense, not yet anyways.

  • Rusted Out

    That’s a bit extreme.

  • Kevin Artis

    Can you think of a worst group in Steelers history?

  • Rusted Out

    If you put it that way, yes I can. When Foote and Farrior were in steep decline. Also when Worilds was expected to be a great pass rusher in 2013 and 2014. Those groups were worse. This current group does have a big hole on the right side for sure though. I don’t think that a #1 pick, a FA, and Harrison resigned for depth is too much to bolster arguably the most important position on our defense.

  • Kevin Artis

    Strictly at outside linebacker? Worilds wasnt a world beater but I would insert him over anyone we have right now. If we had him over Dupree I think we would get more pressure. I’m not sure who else we had for depth at that time but I don’t recall the group being worst. IMO.

  • Rusted Out

    Well if your opinion of Dupree is that low, then I can see why you think they’re the worst. Although if you take our original starting 4 at the beginning of the season of Jarvis, Shazier, Timmons, and Moats… Yea that’s a good possibility.