There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: ILB Jon Bostic
Roster Vulnerability: Zero
Role Vulnerability: Low-Medium
When talking about one of the Steelers’ most recent acquisitions, inside linebacker Jon Bostic, it’s probably safe to say that he is guaranteed a roster spot barring something very out of the ordinary occurring between now and the start of the season.
He is on track to enter the season as the team’s starting mack linebacker and possibly signal-caller as well, as it currently stands. Though signed to a contract that suggests he may be viewed at best as a bridge starter, the second part of that term is the key aspect right now.
But Pittsburgh has shown a heavy interest in the inside linebacker position this season after they have experienced back-to-back seasons of losing starters. Lawrence Timmons departed in free agency and was replaced by Vince Williams, while Ryan Shazier is sidelined indefinitely with a spinal injury.
Players like Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans are realistic targets for the Steelers in the first round, provided that they will be available, though it is not guaranteed that they will fall to them. There have been some recent reports indicating that Evans will be drafted higher than is being talked about, for example.
It is worth pointing out that Bostic was not brought in by the Colts last season to be a starter, but he won the job anyway and became a leader on the team. Had they not replaced their coaching staff and converted from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, they likely would have re-signed him.
So I think underestimation of Bostic is a factor that should be considered here. Even if the team ends up drafting an inside linebacker in the first round, that doesn’t guarantee that he ends up in the starting lineup immediately, or even by the end of the season. He might receive some playing time, but starting is not a foregone conclusion by any means.