In a crazy week of all that is the NFL free agency market, the Pittsburgh Steelers name has been in the headlines more in the first few days than we normally see, not necessarily for the best of reasons. This week, the Steelers themselves have already lost 42% of their defensive starters from last season, which calls for some major moves to be made heading into the 2021 year. The Steelers have never been known to be very active in the free agency market, rather choosing to better themselves through the NFL Draft. A theory that has both proven to be effective, but one that still has a risk factor involved. Whichever avenue the Steelers choose to go down to address this new vacancy left on this team is left in question, but there are options available no matter what direction they choose.
One of the key positions that now seemingly has a vacancy is the middle linebacker spot, a position that ironically enough, has a bit of a depth issue on this team. Reason being is that on Wednesday morning the Steelers announced that they have released ILB Vince Williams, an 8-year veteran of the Steelers organization and someone who carried a huge vocal leadership role on this defense for the past 3-4 years. Although Williams may not have ever been the elite linebacker that most expect to be manning the middle of this defense, he was the type of backer who played his role well and was a good compliment to the likes of Ryan Shazier and Devin Bush when each were on the field respectfully. Williams was someone you could expect to suit up each time his name was called. In all of his 8 seasons in the black and gold, Williams never played in less than 14 games in an individual season. Having that type of dependability is something the Steelers are going to miss heading into the new year.
The Steelers did just re-sign hybrid ILB/S Marcus Allen and ILB Robert Spillane both to 1-year deals for the upcoming year. We pair that with the ILB crew that is already signed to the roster so far of Bush, Tegray Scales and Ulysees Gilbert III, we do have capable players on our roster who can fill the void if need be. The question is, will the Steelers be comfortable enough having just these four linebackers going into next season. Again, in the wonderful world of free agency, the answer to the question will only be answered as time passes, so patience is a virtue in this situation. In the meantime, it leaves all of SteelerNation wondering the possibilities going into 2021.
We were all a witness to what Spillane was able to do last year after Bush went down with a torn ACL in the early weeks of last season. In his absence, Spillane filled in the void quite nicely, making some big splash plays and with obvious help, was a good reason why this defense sat atop the defensive ranks last year. Spillane ended the year with a combined 59 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. Spillane did a good job of putting himself in position to make an impact on games. He wasn’t perfect, and he wasn’t the type of player Bush is, but he did what was asked of him and I think it’s safe to say he exceeded everyone’s expectations from a production standpoint. Now that he has re-signed for the upcoming year, there could be a chance that the Steelers roll with Bush and Spillane as the starting middle linebackers when the start of the year begins.
WATCH SPILLANE INTERCEPTION HERE:
In my opinion, the Steelers best bet would be to fill this void through this year’s NFL Draft. While there is a good chance we bring in a veteran player on a 1-year deal to pair his experience with Bush’s youthful energy, the perfect storm would be for the Steelers to find Bush’s counterpart through the draft process. That being said, I don’t think this situation is one that garners top priority when it comes to next month, meaning I don’t believe the Steelers will use their 1st round draft pick on another middle linebacker. There are more obvious holes to fill on this team, ones that should be addressed before this issue at hand. It’s probably a good bet to say that the Steelers will be taking an offensive lineman or a running back with the 24th pick in the first round this year, but what happens after that is unknown.
I could see multiple scenarios where we try to revamp the linebacker crew in some way this offseason, especially after losing Bud Dupree and Williams both to free agency. I don’t want to completely rule out the possibility of us signing a linebacker during free agency though, I have just witnessed enough Steeler offseasons to know how this process truly goes, and patiently waiting until the draft always seems to be the answer. As far as we are concerned, the Steelers coaching staff themselves might have enough faith to put Spillane on the other side of Bush on the depth chart in 2021, focusing on other needs this offseason, in hopes that Spillane can recreate the same type of production he had prior to his injury in 2020. The team could also look to use Allen as a pairing with Spillane, putting either in situations that best fit their skillset. Again, time will tell, but it will be exciting to see how this situation works itself out.
Would you like to see the Steelers address this vacancy in the draft? Or do you believe in Robert Spillane? Comment below!