Thanks to the draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers now have an excess of linebackers. It’s going to be the job of the coaching staff to figure out which guys stay and which guys go and even who is going to play which position.
It’s clear based on the players the Steelers brought in this offseason, they are blurring the lines between traditional roles of linebackers in a 3-4 defense. Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Sutton Smith and Ulysees Gilbert III are all new additions with unique skills sets and NFL-caliber athleticism.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke about the new linebackers and his comments on Gilbert was quite interesting. Tomlin lumped Gilbert in with second-year player Ola Adeniyi and fellow rookie Sutton Smith as potential depth at outside linebacker.
In studying Gilbert you note he was moved all around the formation at Akron and with his athleticism, it makes sense you don’t want to lock him into a spot. But if we are talking about Gilbert as an outside linebacker, his success will be off ball and not with his hand on the ground as an edge rusher.
The addition of Gilbert, if he can drop into coverage as an OLB could potentially allow T.J. Watt to rush the passer more. Watt is the no worse than the second-best pass rusher on the team along with Cam Heyward but because he’s such a good athlete finds himself in coverage too much.
Players like Gilbert and Devin Bush have the chance to balance the scales for the Steelers defense against all these high-flying offenses of the NFL. If they can do this, players like Watt and Heyward could absolutely feast on quarterbacks knowing there is coverage flexibility behind them.