Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steelers Draft Preview: Linebackers

We continue our preview of the Steelers draft situation today with a look at the linebackers. We'll be hosting a Cover It Live Blog with some other bloggers and fans on Thursday and Friday for the first three rounds of the draft. Feel free to stop by and share your thoughts with us! The great thing about CoverItLive Blogs is that you don't need an account to participate, you can make posts as a guest. We're looking forward to the draft and hope that you'll drop by and chat with us!

Outside Linebackers
Current Players:
James Harrison
LaMarr Woodley
Andre Frazier
Patrick Bailey

No one is going to dispute the fact that we have the best OLB tandem in the league. Harrison and Woodley are beasts at their positions. Period. Frazier and Bailey are indispensable parts of the special teams. While the coverage units were a bit of a sore spot last year, you can't doubt the effort of these two. Bailey is always the first guy down the field and Frazier is consistently good. What the Steelers truly lack here is pass-rushing depth behind Harrison and Woodley. Timmons is talented enough to step in at OLB should one of them go down, but we lack any real depth behind them. The Steelers have spent draft picks, including a 3rd rounder on Bruce Davis three years ago, to try to add depth, but Davis showed little in the preseason and was cut. With the other needs the team has, I don't think going after a "Tweener" (DE/OLB) player in the first round is a good idea, but targeting one in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft would really help the depth of the team, particularly since Harrison is starting to edge up there in years. One guy to keep an eye out for is O'Brien Schofield who was the defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, but then tore his ACL while practicing for the Senior Bowl. He could be a steal in the later rounds of the draft if his ACL has healed.

Potential Draft Picks
Jerry Hughes (TCU) - 1st (Trade down)
Koa Misi (Utah) - Late 2nd/3rd
Ricky Sapp (Clemson) - 3rd
O'Brien Schofield (Wisconsin) - 4th/5th

Inside Linebackers
Current Players:
James Farrior
Lawrence Timmons
Larry Foote
Keyaron Fox

Two years ago, the Steelers rotated their linebackers, with Farrior seeing every down and Timmons and Foote splitting time at the other ILB spot. When Foote left for Detroit, Timmons was promoted to being an every-down LB. Keyaron Fox stepped in brilliantly for Timmons whenever he went down with injury, and we were a bit puzzled why Fox didn't see more time on the field. James Farrior has clearly lost a step, and was exploited in man-to-man pass coverage against running backs multiple times last year. With Foote coming back, we really hope they rotate their linebackers more during games to keep them fresh at the end of games. Farrior is clearly getting up there in years and the Steelers may look for someone to fill his shoes. Whether this be in the first round with a guy like Rolando McClain or in later rounds with someone like Sean Lee (Penn St), Brandon Spikes (Florida), or Jamar Chaney (Mississippi St).

Potential Draft Picks:
Rolando McClain (Alabama) - 1st (Trade Up)
Brandon Spikes (Florida) - 2nd/3rd
Sean Lee (Penn St) - 3rd
Jamar Chaney (Mississippi St) - 3rd
Micah Johnson (Kentucky) - 5th/6th

Other Current Players:
Renauld Williams
Johnny Williams
Derrick Doggett

Honestly, none of these guys are likely to make the team. They're on the roster right now to fill out the roster, and if they perform well, they may end up on the practice squad this year. We really don't see much more upside for any of them than that.

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