Steeler Nation , as football season draws nearer and the days to training camp grow shorter, we thought we would continue to provide a little reading material while we wait. Here is our breakdown of the Steelers inside linebacker position.
State of the Inside Linebacker position : To say this position was a position of concern during the 2013 season is a bit of an understatement. The 2013 season started off badly when defensive leader and play caller Larry Foote went down with a season ending injury in the very first game of the season. The Steelers defense never really recovered and even tried to have Safety Troy Polamalu help out at the inside position much of the season. The problem was the Steelers had no quality depth or experience at the position.
The Steelers plugged in Inside linebacker Kion Wilson but he was not the answer.The Steelers finally settled on rookie Vince Williams and he had some growing pains but improved slightly as the season moved on. In the end the Steelers defense finished 21st against the run allowing 115.6 yards rushing a game. The lack of quality inside linebacker play contributed big time to this low ranking.
The Steelers went into the off-season determined to solve this problem. They drafted Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State in the first round. Shazier has blazing speed and great football instincts . The Steelers hope that with the addition of Shazier , Vince Williams now having a year of experience under his belt and the hopeful comeback of Sean Spence adds up to better days in 2014.
The Bottom line is the Steelers inside linebacker play must improve greatly and If Shazier, Spence and Williams come through the inside linebacker position becomes a strength in 2014. Time will tell.
A look at the Inside Linebackers…
Lawrence Timmons: Timmons is heading into his 8th season and may be the Steelers most consistently good player of the last four seasons on defense.In 2013 he led the defense in tackles(126) and tied for the most interceptions(2) . Timmons is still young at age 28 and it may be prime time for his first Pro Bowl in 2014. Timmons’ play is a major key to the Steelers success in 2014.
Ryan Shazier: Shazier (6-1, 237 ) was drafted in the first round this off-season. He has blazing speed for a linebacker running a 4.38 40 yard dash. The starting job opposite Lawrence Timmons is Shaziers’ to lose. At Ohio State he totaled 315 career tackles (208 solos) and 107 assists. He had 14 career sacks for minus 107 yards, 44.5 stops for losses and nine quarterback pressures. Shazier returned his only interception 17 yards for a touchdown. He deflected 15 passes and caused nine career fumbles.
Shazier may experience some growing pains as a rookie but has the speed and football instinct to make up for his inexperience.The Steelers expect big things from Shazier,and so far in Mini camp he did not disappoint .
Vince Williams: Williams is heading into his second season after being unexpectedly thrown into a starting position his rookie season.In 2013 Williams started 11 games and made 53 tackles..Williams was a liability on passing downs and rarely saw the field during passing situations. Williams was thrown into a tough spot as a sixth round rookie. A year of experience should help but at this point he is at least third on the depth chart.
Sean Spence: Spence’s story by now is well known. Spence was drafted by the Steelers as a third round pick in the 2012 draft.He showed great promise early on but suffered a horrific knee injury in the final 2012 preseason that caused nerve damage. It’s been two long seasons of rehab, pain and determination but it looks as though Spence has a chance to make a full recovery.Reports have been good but we will know more once he sees some contact at camp and in the preseason.Spence’s return could mean big things for the Steelers defense and depth.
Kion Wilson: Wilson began 2013 as a starter by default after Larry Foote‘s season ending injury after week one. The Steelers soon found out he was not the answer. Wilson made 12 total tackles but did show some special teams ability. He has the advantage of having a year in the Steelers system but still may have an up hill battle to make the team.
Jordan Zumwalt: Zumwalt (6-4 235) is a rookie taken in the 6th round out of UCLA. He has decent speed 4.76 in the 40 and is known as a player with a high motor.Jordan Zumwalt also has position flexibility with the ability to also play outside linebacker and special teams,two skill sets that may serve him well in his chances to make the roster.
Terence Garvin: Garvin (6-3 221)signed with the Steelers in May of 2013 as an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia. He ended up playing a total of 33 plays and made 11 tackles but 10 were on special teams. Garvin also started in week 16 of 2013.Despite the start Terence Garvin may have his work cut out for him to make the roster.
Dan Molls: Molls (6-0 238) signed with the Steelers in January 2014. He originally signed with the San Diego Chargers in 2013 as an undrafted rookie out of Toledo. Molls was a two-time ALL MAC selection and once led the nation with 166 tackles. He must prove he can do it at the next level. He is considered a long shot to make the roster.
Feel free to leave a comment, thanks for reading and stay tuned to Steelers N Stuff for more news and updates . Like us on FaceBook and Share this post with Friends. Follow us on twitter @STEELERSNSTUFF and @NFLNSTUFF Go Steelers!
Other SNS Camp Breakdowns: