Jack Lambert. Jack Ham. James Harrison. Greg Lloyd. Kendrell Bell. Since we can remember, the Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their linebackers. Linebackers are praised in Pittsburgh as being a reflection of Steeler Nation. This meaning the Steelers breed tough, gritty, never-say-die men to play the outside and inside linebacker positions. With that said, we often see the Steelers invite plenty of rookie and veteran players to compete for the four starting linebacker roles in the defense. So, who are some potentially surprising cuts at linebacker we could see before September? Let’s get into it:
Allen was drafted 148th overall by the Steelers in 2018 as a safety. Because of his size and strength, Allen moved from safety to a linebacker/dime backer role. He’s listed as linebacker on the depth chart and saw a lot of time at the position in the latter part of the 2020 season as a result of injuries. In addition to linebacker, Allen was also a big asset on special teams and is a tackling machine. However, Miles Killebrew was acquired in March to compete for that hybrid position. Killebrew came into Pittsburgh as a free agent after four years with the Detroit Lions. Given the current defensive scheme, both Allen and Killebrew would be evaluated on special teams before defense, and that is where Killebrew is superior. He was a major asset in Detroit on special teams and made large impacts on kick and punt returns. Comparing the tape, statistics on paper, and need for the Steelers, I see Allen either getting cut or moved down to the practice squad in favor of Killebrew.
Since he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, Marsh has been a journeyman in the NFL before landing in Pittsburgh in 2020. I know what you’re thinking — Marsh is listed as defensive end. However, Marsh plays more of that hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker role. Marsh was brought into Pittsburgh late in 2020 off the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad to help replenish a depleted Steelers defensive unit. Looking into the upcoming season, Marsh is going to see some tough competition for the edge/outside linebacker role. We already know T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are going into camp as starters, but the depth behind them is in flux. Marsh is going to be competing against rookies Quincy Roche and Boogie Watson, along with second-year man Jamir Jones. Of those names, Roche is primed to earn the back-up role to Watt and Highsmith, leaving room for just one more opening on the outside. Unfortunately, I think Marsh finds himself either cut or back on the practice squad when the cuts to the final roster are made.
Ulysees Gilbert III
Since he was drafted by the Steelers 270th overall in 2019, Gilbert has spent more time on the Injured Reserve list than the actual playing field. It seems as though Gilbert is in a position to lock in a starting inside linebacker role, then gets bit by the injury bug and struggles to overcome it. There are some analysts who are expecting Vince Williams to get the axe after training camp, but I anticipate Gilbert landing on the outside looking in. Especially with the fourth-round selection of Buddy Johnson in April’s draft combined with the re-signing of Robert Spillane, the pieces are not falling in Gilbert’s favor to make the final roster. Personally, I like Williams over Gilbert, paired with Devin Bush, and backed by Johnson and Spillane to round out the inside portion of the linebacker corps in 2021.
Who do you think will miss the cut at linebacker? Let us know in the comments!