The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was very shortly after the 2016 season ended. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed, and, in a rarity, this actually applies to literally every position on the roster, including the quarterbacks and specialists.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 7
James Harrison: The ageless wonder is going to have age catch up to him at some point, but for now he remains a starter, even if he likely will not play 95 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
Bud Dupree: Big things are expected of Dupree in his third season as a former first-round draft pick. He had a groin injury shorten his second year by more than half, but he compiled four and a half sacks over the final four games of the regular season. He also had a half-sack and a hit that produced an interception in the playoffs.
Anthony Chickillo: A special-teams standout, it is unclear if Chickillo will have a role of any kind on defense this season. That would be unlikely if they don’t plan to rotate with Dupree, which they moved away from at the end of last year.
Arthur Moats: Moats would seem to be the veteran most in danger of not making the roster. With the Steelers drafting two outside linebackers, somebody will have to go, and Moats was passed by Chickillo in the starting lineup last year while he doesn’t contribute to special teams the way he used to.
Farrington Huguenin: A college teammate of Dupree’s, Huguenin’s most impressive attribute shown to date is having a difficult to spell last name as a reserve/future signing.
T.J. Watt: the younger brother of J.J, Watt has great potential that must be harnessed. Inexperienced but not raw, he had a very encouraging spring and should get a good amount of playing time as a rookie.
Keion Adams: The seventh-round pick will have his hands full trying to make the 53-man roster, which he can help secure with strong play on special teams, but as I indicated yesterday, I do like his chances.
Jarvis Jones: A former first-round draft pick, the Steelers let Jones walk in free agency after four seasons, declining to pick up his fifth-year option. He was demoted from the starting lineup last year and never had a secure grip on it in the first place. His pass rush was simply far below par.
Jason Fanaika: Signed as a reserve/future player, Fanaika retired from football in April.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
There are three main storylines to look for at the outside linebacker position this summer. The most important is going to be the development of Dupree, who has to become their stud pass-rusher sooner than later. He is putting in the work this offseason and it has to pan out.
Secondary to that in terms of the 2017 season is to monitor the playing time of Watt with the first-team defense. Caution must be paid not to oversell it because Harrison is going to get his rest. But if the rookie plays well, he’s going to get snaps.
Finally, we will be monitoring the battle for the presumed fifth and final position at outside linebacker between Chickillo, Moats, and Adams. Chickillo’s special-teams prowess gives him the most comfortable seat. Adams’ practice squad eligibility hurts him.