I must be missing something. There has to be more to the story than meets the eye. There must be a four-game suspension on the horizon that only a select few NFL insiders know about. Maybe there’s a failed drug test, or as-yet-undisclosed legal concerns behind it all. Whatever the reason, I sure would love to know why — inexplicably — the Pittsburgh Steelers have showed zero interest in the recently released, former Philadelphia Eagles ILB Mychal Kendricks.
We all bore witness to the rapid decline of the Steelers’ defense last season following the season-ending injury to budding superstar ILB Ryan Shazier. All of the defense’s shortcomings were revealed in the absence of Shazier’s superior speed and athleticism to cover them up. Without going into great detail, it was more than apparent Shazier was the glue which held the unit together.
What could the Steelers possibly do to try and replace the irreplaceable?
All we heard from the team leading up to free agency and the NFL Draft was how there was nobody available who could match his special skill set, much less fill his unique role on the defense.
We kept hearing two or three names at inside linebacker mentioned as possible draft targets in a relatively weak draft at the position. But these players were all gone by the time the Steelers’ pick came around. The team reportedly tried to trade up in the first round so they could draft one of these coveted players.
That’s where this whole situation gets more than a little confusing for me. Why attempt to trade up if you’re content with the linebacker corps you already have?
The Steelers were able to acquire Jon Bostic in free agency to help strengthen what, on paper at least, appears to be the weakest unit on the team. Bostic may prove to be a real asset for the defense, but the team is gambling that he can do something this season which has eluded him so far in his career — stay healthy. Behind Bostic on the depth chart are journeymen and special-teamers at best.
I read an article this week where the author went so far as to say this current group of linebackers as presently populated are the weakest group of Steelers linebackers he could ever recall — and if we’re being honest, he’s probably correct.
Outside of T.J. Watt, what current Steelers linebacker would you say has the opportunity to be special? Shazier was headed in that direction before his devastating injury, but hadn’t quite reached that level in my opinion.
In fact, for an organization renowned for outstanding linebacker play, who might be considered the last great linebacker drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers? It can’t be Harrison because he wasn’t drafted. Timmons was a very good player, but nobody would confuse him for great. Woodley had a couple of strong seasons but that was about it. You would honestly have to go all the way back to Joey Porter to find the last All-Pro linebacker that the Steelers actually drafted, and that was in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Not an impressive draft resume to say the least, and something the Steelers need to really focus on moving forward.
That brings me back to my initial question:
Why aren’t the Pittsburgh Steelers bringing Mychal Kendricks in for a visit? At least kick the tires on the kid and see what’s up.
What better way is there to replace a young, super-fast, sideline-to-sideline ILB than with another young, also fast, sideline-to-sideline ILB? These players are super difficult to find according to none other than Kevin Colbert, and then, unexpectedly, one suddenly becomes available out of the blue. So how are the Steelers reacting to this good fortune? By doing nothing, it appears!
I almost always have complete faith the Steelers’ front office will make the best decision for the organization in the end, but I’m finding this decision hard to rationalize.
For a team that has had such difficulty drafting and developing talent at the linebacker position, this seems like such a no-brainer. Kendricks may just be the missing piece — coupled with the infusion of talent at the safety positions — that could make the Steelers’ defense truly special again this season and help bring home a seventh Lombardi Trophy.
Not even a tour through the facilities, past the six Lombardi Trophies, and then a trip to Primanti Brothers in the Strip District. Maybe take Ryan Shazier along and let him recruit Kendricks to Pittsburgh with an inspirational speech about how he needs to pick up the shield of our fallen warrior and lead the team to the promised land.
It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it — but I digress. Back to reality I guess.
I sure hope the Steelers know what they’re doing concerning Mychal Kendricks and don’t end up regretting doing nothing.
UPDATE: At the point this article was published, Kendricks was rumored to have signed a one year contract with the Cleveland Browns, but only for he, and his agent, to contradict the report stating they are still negotiating with him to four potential teams. Stay tuned as more on this story is certain to come out in the coming hours/days.