‘Money’ ‘Backer Position Should Also Consider Actual Linebackers

There is a large section of observers who believe that more than anything the biggest issue facing the Pittsburgh Steelers is their coverage ability, more so than, for example, than the pass rush, or a lack of certainly at the wide receiver position, or stability at the tight end spot.

While many people would like to see Ross Cockrell demoted into a backup role, a lot of the focus has come instead in the slot, and much conventional thinking has resolved that a coverage safety might be the ideal solution to the team’s issues. The likes of Obi Melifonwu, Josh Jones, Budda Baker, and Jabrill Peppers have all been pegged to the Steelers at some point within the first two rounds.

But is that the best and most efficient solution? We are largely talking about a player who will serve in the ‘moneybacker’ role, a quasi-linebacker who will spend a lot of his time playing in the box. In order to find these sorts of defensive backs today, it usually requires a high draft pick.

These are typically largely defensive backs, some of whom may have even spent some time playing the linebacker position in college, as Peppers did during his final season in Michigan. But what about just taking an actual linebacker with excellent coverage abilities?

At the end of the day, what we ultimately seem to be discussing is trying to compensate for the drop in coverage that presumed starter Vince Williams will provide, reminiscent of his rookie season when he was forced into the starting lineup due to injury.

That year, Williams was nominally a starter but frequently spent more than half of the game on the sideline while an additional defensive back, usually safety Will Allen, took the field. Late in the season, even undrafted free agent minicamp tryout Terence Garvin was logging some time with Williams on the sideline.

That may be a more economical solution to the problem: finding a player in the vein of Garvin, only much more capable. This will also provide critical depth at the mack linebacker position, which the Steelers do not have at the moment. Given Ryan Shazier’s injury history, this is notable, so finding such a player could serve dual purposes.

I must confess that I don’t consider myself an expert in the inside linebacker crop in this draft, largely because it’s something that I wasn’t really anticipating to be necessary, so I can’t roll out a list of names off the top of my head. But perhaps somebody like Elijah Lee or Jordan Evans in the final three rounds of the draft could make sense.

Of course, the Steelers could target somebody like that in that period of the draft regardless of how they might address the defensive backs on the first two days of the draft, as, as I mentioned previously, the depth at the mack linebacker position is a concern of its own.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Darth Blount 47

    May I present to you for inspection, Tyus Bowser. An athletic freak who covers better than any other LB in this class, IMO. Which, if you are gonna grab a LB who has to have the chops to cover both WR’s, RB’s, AND TE’s, Bowser is your guy. Usually you’d want a guy to maybe come in and put on a little weight. But in the case of Bowser, maybe you’d ask him to drop a few pounds if possible. The idea that he could get any more athletic or fast though, is a truly scary proposition, indeed.

  • Nolrog

    It’s hard to separate the coverage issue from the pressure issue. They go hand in hand. If you cover well, you give the rushers an extra second to get pressure. If you pressure well you make the QB throw faster the coverage is more effective.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Surprise surprise. Darth mentions Tyus Bowser. Haha

    I’m just kidding. I think it’s a fine point actually. There has even been mention of him playing as an off the ball linebacker(similar to the T.J. Watt talk) for just that reason.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Lol. I was just about to mention a few more names as I edit my comment to include them… just for posterity, ya know?

  • LucasY59

    not sure if I would want him to drop any weight if they plan on lining him up outside as well, but if they double up early with him and another OLB (Rivers or Willis) it could be the way to use both of them, and Bowser may end up as more of a full time ILB to replace Timmons (which would be fine with me)

  • AustinTxStillerFan

    Biggest weakness in the Depots player coverage this year has been lack of ILB evaluations. The position feels thin this year, but nit sure if that is Depot coverage or the class.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I hear ya, but the exercise was to find guys who could play a true $Backer role, and not just back up at ILB. I think Matt pointed out ILB as the preferable route, since it would be rare to see an OLB actually be able to appropriately cover to the necessary degree. But that is precisely what Bowser excels at. I’ve almost NEVER seen an OLB with rush ability, cover out of the back like Bowser. He makes me drop my jaw when I see him shadow RB’s out of the backfield for tens of yards down the field.

  • Darth Blount 47

    The class. Definitely the class. For such an amazing Defensive heavy draft like this, ILB is a true gaping black hole of mediocrity.

  • LucasY59

    problem is there arent a lot of LBs capable of the $ Backer spot,

    Reddick will likely be gone by the 1st Steeler pick, like Darth mentioned Bowser might be the best at it right now, but is mainly a OLB so not sure they would use the early pick on a OLB and then take him off the edge on passing downs

    Davis is also getting a lot of attention (Foster might not be great in that role IF he fell) Cunningham and McMillan arent great in coverage (even if they can run fast enough to do so, it isnt a skill they are strong at)

    Anzalone will be picked too early to make it worth his injury risk, after the 3rd rd there arent really any guys I would feel comfortable with coming in and playing those snaps, but maybe a few that could develop and play in a ST role (like Garvin) until they are, Jimmie Gilbert is the guy that sticks out to me for that, and could be the 6th rd pick

    so basically it is pick a LB really early or fairly late to play the $ backer, which is kinda the same with the Safeties (especially the early rd part)

  • LucasY59

    agreed Bowser is better in pass coverage than he is at rushing the passer IMO

  • steelburg

    You just hit on something I think a lot of us are underestimating. I think the team fully expects to convert one of these OLB into an ILB similar to what they did with Timmons. The guy that makes the most sense to me based off who they brought in is Carroll Phillips. He and Bowser are 2 guys I think will be out matched at OLB. But they both have perfect size to play ILB. As far as the moneybacker position goes I think the team is set on taking a guy with a DB background over a guy with a linebacker back ground.

  • steelburg

    I’m looking for the team to convert a OLB to ILB so consider some one like Carroll Phillips being moved inside that’s my guys on what they will do at the position.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I think he can do both, but I’d agree with that statement, since I think his dropping is outstanding.

  • LucasY59

    right, he is adequate rushing as well, just better in coverage

  • LucasY59

    I have thought Phillips might be better at ILB than he is at OLB, but I am not a big fan of him at either position, but if it only takes a 5th rd pick to get him I wouldnt mind him on the team,

    Bowser is one of my fav OLBs because of his Versatility

    and even though he isnt likely to be available at 30, I would throw Reddick in with the names of guys they would probably move inside (from the outside …Shazier was also a guy they moved, so it seems there is a trend)

  • Jeff Papiernik

    I think Jarrad Davis could do it. That’s why I think he’s one of the top 5 likely to be drafted at #30

  • Douglas Andrews

    That’s why I think Peppers is the pick at 30!

  • AustinTxStillerFan

    Is anyone else intrigued with Matt Milano? He seems like a good day 3 pick that could earn some time on special teams and maybe in sub-packages.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Agreed, thats why I think it is likely to be addressed very early, possibly prior to any OLB pick.

  • Shane Mitchell

    They showed interest in Duke Riley I view him as a hybrid linebacker, he is also a phenomenal special teams player.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Yeah, he played the hybrid position in college, the Michigan coaches gave Jabrill Peppers tape of Milano to study.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Darth, can he cover Gronk down the field, cuz I’m flat tired of watching that guy run thru us like a big roll thru butter.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Oh yes. He most certainly can. I’m telling you, NOBODY at the LB position in this whole draft, covers like Tyus Bowser. His basketball background which he talked about in his Combine video, he said it helped to train his feet and hips like no other. And he’s right.