Recently there has been some buzz around our young talent at the linebacker position. The team has done nothing to dissuade that buzz as they found it acceptable to part ways with oft-injured Stevenson Sylvester in the first round of cuts despite being labeled as the first off the bench in support of our ILB position as well as Adrian Robinson who had garnered praise from LeBeau about his promise as a rusher and his work ethic. This move still leaves a glut at the linebacker position with Chris Carter, Alan Baxter, Vince Williams, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson, Brian Rolle and Terence Garvin vying for what is likely four roster spots backing up Lamarr Woodley, Larry Foote , Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones.
Alan Baxter was thrust into the spotlight amid whispers of a good showing at camp with the trade of Adrian Robinson. He showed up providing pressure throughout the night and was credited with 2 sacks and a tackle during punt coverage. Its been suggested that his ability may have been the catalyst the team needed to trade Adrian Robinson. He had an ill-advised unnecessary roughness penalty that seemed due to an aggressive style of play after coming in a little late.
Chris Carter is an established backup on the Steelers team and his experience presumably gives him an advantage over some of the newer linebackers. Unfortunately, he hasn't seemed to impress in his time on the field and may be entering a real fight with Baxter. He almost had a fumble recovery against the Chiefs, but the play was overturned upon review.
Inside Linebacker Vince Williams was drafted in the 6th round this year and was projected as a 2-down linebacker that would struggle with coverage. He had a nice pass defense against the Chiefs and was credited with 4 tackles providing some hope that he will be able to overcome his projected deficiencies. Despite the good, he was also hit for a horse-collar tackle on a team that can ill-afford patience with players who cannot avoid penalties.
Marshall McFadden made it on to the practice squad last year and has been pushing for the backup ILB spot. He ran with the second string last game and has the extra time with the LeBeau's scheme to aid him in his quest for the first backup at ILB on the 53. He has looked good but has not pulled away from the rest of the pack by any means and there is still plenty of time for a shake-up at ILB.
Kion Wilson has bounced around several teams such as the Chargers and the Panthers after he went undrafted in 2010. He has been able to make some athletic plays and recorded a sack against the Chiefs alongside 2 tackles. He was on the field for 14 special teams snaps which was pretty high for a preseason game and didn't seem to be the reason for the miscues on that unit.
Brian Rolle was a 6th round draft pick by the Eagles in 2011 and may be the only player out of these backups to have logged a touchdown albeit for another team. He started 13 games for the Eagles before being beaten out by Akeem Jordan in camp and being cut. There is talk that he struggled on special teams with the Eagles which would hurt his cause for making the team if he hasn't cleaned that up. So far he hasn't made any noticeable mistakes on special teams and has generally played decently when given the chance.
The announcers were discussing which linebacker would turn out to be more impressive, Terence Garvin or Alan Baxter. While Baxter was able to put on a show, swaying the conversation decidedly in his favor, the fact that Garvin has been gaining recognition can only be seen as a good thing. He and the other linebackers will have more of a chance to prove themselves with the 4th preseason game coming up. With the roster thinned a little bit at the linebacker position and the tendency to try to keep the starters out of much of the last preseason game there will be more snaps to go around. As the last round of cuts approach, look for these linebackers to play with urgency.