Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Outlook for Pittsburgh Steelers


Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

If you haven’t yet, take some time and read the offensive outlook for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now on to the defense. The defense isn’t as sturdy as the offense is. Although most of the free agents signed by the Steelers were defensive players, there are still some serious depth issues. There are even some positions that don’t have a starter going into the offseason.

Defensive Line

As of right now, we know two players that are locks to make the roster next season, Cameron Heyward and Steve McLendon. However, we don’t even know where McLendon will be playing. The Steelers recently signed DT Cam Thomas, and many assume that this move was made for Thomas to start at NT and McLendon to move to DE. This, I don’t think, is the case. Thomas wasn’t paid like a starter, getting a moderate 2 year deal. He is simply replacing Al Woods. The Steelers have no experienced backup at the NT position, and Thomas was brought in for experienced depth. For everyone that has had the Steelers taking a NT in the first round, this should tell you all you need to know, the Steelers will not be drafting a defensive lineman in the first round. I have been called crazy, stupid, ridiculous for saying defensive line would absolutely not go in the first round, and now I am reaping the benefits of being right pertaining to the Steelers…again.

To the defensive end spot, Alex Carrington is still a free agent, and it’s looking like his price goes down by the day, as he has visited several teams and may realize no one is going to give him the money he wants. The Steelers should be an attractive option for Carrington, as he will almost be guaranteed a starting job on Dick Lebeau’s defense at left defensive end, and John Mitchell as his defensive line coach. If Carrington is not brought in, defensive end just rose to the top of the list going into the draft. However, I don’t see this happening, because a rookie won’t start on the defensive line in year one, and the Steelers always have Brett Keisel to go to. Either way, expect a defensive end signed sometime soon. Almost guaranteed.

Linebackers

The linebackers group, believe it or not, has plenty of youth going into the season. Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds are the obvious starter at outside linebacker. We already saw what Worilds brings to the table, and am excited to see what a full offseaon does for Jarvis Jones, especially know he is the starter, does for his development. I truly believe we will see Jones put up impressive numbers, and he will start to show us why the Steelers spent a first round pick on him. As far as depth goes, they have Chris Carter and Terrence Garvin who can play on the outside. Carter is nothing to be excited about, but Garvin should make some strides from his rookie season. A mid to late round draft pick could be spent on an outside linebacker, but for depth reasons only.

To the inside, Lawrence Timmons will head into his first season without his draft mate, Lamarr Woodley. We do know that he will be starting, obviously. Beside him, I think it’s safe to say Vince Williams will enter the offseason as the starter, and it will be his job to lose. He showed upside last season, especially is his run defense. If he can develop into a 3 down player, there is definitely a spot for him on the team. Sean Spence and Kion Wilson are both young players who will more than likely be the backups. Same as the outside linebackers, a mid to late round draft pick could be spent for depth purposes only.

Secondary

The safety is as deep as it has ever been for the Steelers. Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell will start, with Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen and Robert Golden as the backups. Shamarko Thomas can almost be considered a starter, as he will get plenty of time in the nickel and dime packages. He is also the starter in waiting for Polamalu. There should be no more moves pertaining to the safety position.

Cornerback is a different story. Only 3 cornerbacks on the roster have experience. Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen should start, with William Gay as the only real depth for the Steelers. This is a position of serious need, and an early draft pick should be spent on a cornerback, preferably the first. Not only should they take one in the first round, but they could take a cornerback later in the draft as well. Don’t expect a move in free agency, but when draft time comes around, watch on the first day to see what the Steelers do.

Let me know what you thing about the article by leaving a comment!

Follow me on Twitter: @combs_14

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft NFL NFL Free Agency 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers

  • scott sinclair

    The depth at OLB is atrocious. Carter is garbage and I’m not at all thrilled with Garvin. Much as I hate to say it, I can see them going and signing Harrison due to his experience in the system and the fact that even at his age, he’s better than Carter and Garvin. They need to draft 1 if not 2 OLBs or address it with rookie FA. As for McClendon, he’s a DE, he is not the space eater Thomas is. I think McClendon starts opposite Heyward or becomes the new Al Woods, a guy who can back up all along the line. Don’t know what all the fuss is about Carrington, not sure why we’re putting so many eggs into that basket. I think we’re fine at ILB, but I think we can do better than Golden/Allen at the 4th safety spot. Maybe a mid round pick (Terrence Brooks) or another low cost free agent or another rookie FA or two for competition. As for CB, this is something they better address in the first or second round. Much as I’d love to see them add a WR like Mike Evans or Allen Robinson, forget the DL, CB should be the most pressing need in the first round.

    • Levi Combs

      I don’t think harrison would be that bad of a signing, but there are too many other needs to draft an outside linebacker early. The two starters are in place for years (if they get a long term deal done with worilds). Carter has experience. Can’t have a jason worilds as your backup for every position. People argue about getting the young guys on the field, so we cut woodley to get jarvis jones on the field, now
      We complain about depth? Can’t be too greedy. Mclendon will start next year no matter what, so he won’t be next al woods. People are freaking out about carrington because we have no starter at LDE. He can start, come cheap, and is a player on the rise. Are you really mad about the 4th safety spot? It’s the fourth safety, may not even see the field with Thomas and rookie cornerbac. Again, too greedy. We are fine at ILB. Lots of youth and talent there. First round hopefully goes to corner. Now that cotchery is in Carolina, receiver becomes a top need. Allen Robinson could be available on second. Receiver either way in second.

    • scott sinclair

      It’s not a question of being greedy but being practical. Yes Troy stayed healthy all year but he is a year older and still prone to injury. Mitchell’s physical play also puts him at risk of injury. And Thomas is physical but his size puts him at risk as well. What’s wrong with having 4 decent safeties? As for Carter he hit free agency last year and nobody wanted him so I’m not sure why we are kidding ourselves that he’s a quality reserve. I’m fine with Harrison backing up Worilds but they need an upgrade behind Jones. Garvin just isn’t it. It’s a shame they lost Alan Baxter I liked him as a potential backup. I think the signing of Thomas eliminated the need for a NT in the first

      • Levi Combs

        It’s a game of football isn’t at risk of injury? There’s a chance that all of them can get injured. Same
        Goes with every team. Our safety depth is as deep as it has ever been. We don’t have a clear starter at wide receiver or LDE as of right now so depth at a position with solid starters isn’t as important as finding potential starters. And if you draft for depth, you then take away the option for drafting for need at a position that needs a starter, such as wide receiver and cornerback when Ike Taylor is gone next season.

        • scott sinclair

          Yes I know the game of football puts everyone at risk of injury, thank you. My point is, which I think you are missing, is that the depth is not there. Salary cap issues and questionable personnel decisions are to blame for some of it. The teams that stay on top, or near the top have good depth at key spots. When Heath Miller went down, his absence was noticeable. The Steelers have 3 physical safeties (Troy, Mitchell and Thomas) who are a high risk of being injured. I’m not as confident that Robert Golden can come in and the drop in talent wouldn’t be as noticeable. I think they can do better than Will Allen as well. What I’m saying is that this is the deepest draft in years, they can find a quality safety in the mid to late rounds or in a rookie free agent. If Dennard isn’t there for them in the first I say wait until the second round to go CB and take a WR or a guy like Michael Sam, who would be an ideal OLB or undersized DE. I think a quartet of Worilds, Jones, Sam and Harrison(if they re-sign him) would be better than what they’ve had there in a long time. Putting Sam opposite Heyward would give a nice push up front. I think they can do a LOT better than Carter and Garvin at OLB, regardless if they are backups or not. I think you’re wrong about reaching for need rather than building some depth at key spots. Remember when they reached for need by drafting Limas Sweed? Granted he was a third rounder, but still…
          As for being “greedy”…yeah, we can complain about it. If you think for one minute any Steeler fan should be comfortable with Carter, Garvin, Golden, etc as our depth then you don’t know Steeler fans. As for Carrington, if he’s such a hot commodity and could come on the cheap, then why hasn’t he been snatched up? Even Ziggy got signed. Teams are not afraid the throw stupid money at young upcoming DL. I think the starting DL this year will be Heyward, Thomas and McClendon . So where would Carrington play? Thomas is a natural NT, so they need to kick McClendon outside.Heyward is entrenched at the other end, so where does Carrington fit? After all you said McClendon will start no matter what, and now you want them to add Carrington? And you call me greedy?
          Still and all I do like your enthusiasm. Keep up the good work my friend.

          • Levi Combs

            Thank you for the comments. I am very enthusiastic when it comes to writing about the steelers, sometimes hoping for the best scenario possible, which usually never happens. I understand what your saying and am going to give in, salary cap is affecting the way we have approached free agency, which could have helped us depth wise. I am, however going to continue to believe that a team can’t have talented depth at every position. You have to give and take. In this case, if we signed carrington, we lose that money that we could have used to sign a veteran linebacker to back up worilds and jones. I still disagree about Thomas, because I don’t think he is starter caliber. If the steelers do see him as a starter, that would shore up the starting defensive line. If not and they are still
            Interested in carrington, starters would prob go carrington, McClendon, and heyward with Thomas the backup at NT. The defensive line is still in limbo to me, so either one of us could be right, hard to tell right now. I’m going off of what I want to happen. And carrington at be asking for to much money, and now that he realizes that teams aren’t going to pay him what he wants, which is why he leaves facilities without contracts, maybe he will lower his price tag. Other than the defensive line,
            I think we pretty much agree.

  • http://batman-news.com Old Voltage

    I don’t think we they can plan on Troy staying healthy. It would be great if he repeated last year’s season without injury but it isn’t likely considering his history, age and playing style.

    • Craig

      I think Troy can stay healthy. His offseason workout regiment, which was different than any other year, helped keep him healthy. His playing style is now different than before – hugging the line more in helping run support because the rest of the defense can’t stop the run. Until that changes, he won’t be quite the running around like crazy guy that we all know and love. Age? Yes that’s certainly a factor – for recovery time. But I don’t think it will effect an impending injury – especially if he had a good offseason of rest and work out schedule like last season.

      • http://batman-news.com Old Voltage

        Love your optimism. My fingers are crossed.

      • Levi Combs

        And good depth if he does get hurt. No worries if he is hurt, would like to see shamarko next to Mitchell.

    • Robert Loveless Reid

      That man not only stayed healthy for us last year, he played out of position almost all year. He looked a cpl yrs younger last year….no limp in his walk…showed explosion, quit trippin!

      • Levi Combs

        Thank you

    • Levi Combs

      If Troy doesn’t stay healthy, shamarko Thomas gets on the field. He is the future, so get him on the field. Without Mitchell signing, he was starting anyways. No worries if polamalu is hurt, lots of depth

  • bk

    I am trying to be optimistic this week… The only CB i think is worthy of a top 15 pick is Gilbert, but, I dont see him getting to Pitt… If they dont trade down I see them going WR/TE or maybe OT if one of the top 3 fall to them. I don’t see a lot of teams wanting to trade up in this draft so I’m sure they will be stuck at 15. So that leaves them a second rd pick to help the D. Should have the pick of the second tier CB’s… Verett, Purifoy, Roberson, Watkins, etc.. or at least have a shot at one of them..I would still take
    S in the form of Buchannan though. NT (unless they reach at 15 for Nix) will be a later round pick like Mccullers…

    • Levi Combs

      Not OT in the first, and TE would be a luxury. CB or WR in the first, other in second. Hopefully they a Address Dline with carrington. Hopefully not nix

      • bk

        If Lewan is there they will take him, no doubt. If top 2 Wr’s are gone I could see them taking Ebron, but, you are right it is a reach there…

        • Levi Combs

          I do disagree about the Lewan, but of both Dennard and Gilbert are gone, Ebron could be possible, but a luxury or could try to trade back

  • [email protected]

    Levi,
    One thing that everyone forgets about is Sean Spence. The little we are hearing about his progress is very encouraging, and he reportedly looked good last year when he returned for a week of practice, alas, before breaking a bone and being done for the season. He was a stud in college at Miami, and looked like the heir apparent to an ILB job alongside Timmons before blowing out his knee. Hopefully, his rehab is done and he is ready to proceed.
    On the CB situation, yes, rd1 is really a must. Rd 2 latest – otherwise we risk not getting the quality we need. I think the 2nd CB taken could be Colvin from Oklahoma in the 7th round. He blew out his knee at the Senior Bowl, but was considered one of the top CBs coming out prior to that; his injury presents us with an opportunity to get quality with our last pick, which is usually kind of a throw away pick anyway.

  • Carl Eagan

    CB should be the target in the first round but all anybody actually knows about Worilds is that he started playing average after Heywood started to dominate. Jones would have had 12 sacks playing against tight ends and running backs instead of the left tackle. Wait if Heywood’s performance drops this year so does Worilds because he is nothing special.