After trading up to draft Devin Bush in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, the Steelers currently have seven inside linebackers on the roster (eight when including Ryan Shazier who is expected to go on the Physically Unable to Perform list again this season). The projected depth chart for the Steelers at ILB is as follows:
- Vince Williams
- Mark Barron
- Devin Bush
- Jon Bostic
- Tyler Matakevich
- Robert Spillane
- Tegray Scales
- Ryan Shazier (projected for PUP list)
Per Kevin Colbert in his pre-draft press conference, the Steelers are not planning on instantly inserting any draft picks into the starting lineup. Therefore, it is safe to place Bush third on the depth chart as soon as he was drafted. There will be plenty of opportunity for Bush to move up into a starting position.
An argument can be made for Vince Williams and John Bostic to start training camp in the top two ILB positions. Both players were starters in 2018 for the Steelers. But the Steelers have added one free agent and now their first round draft pick into the mix. It is just as likely Baron and Bush could be the starters in Week 1.
Another thing to remember about Mark Barron is he originally came into the league as a safety. Barron could find himself playing the linebacker role in dime coverage, which is usually occupied by a defensive back. Baron’s flexibility is going to give him many more opportunities to be on the field.
Vince Williams will be another interesting player to watch how things play out at inside linebacker. Entering his seventh year with the Steelers, Williams was given a new contract last off-season. It’s safe to say that Williams will hold the top spot on the depth chart initially, but his job security is definitely in question and totally production driven.
Jon Bostic may find himself fighting to find the field for Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019. Although very productive from a statistic standpoint in 2018, there are limitations to what Bostic can be asked to do as a part of the Steelers defense.
Tyler Matakevich may be fighting for a roster spot once again in 2019. A core special-teams player, the Steelers may once again go with five inside linebackers, especially if Mark Barron is helping to fill the “dime safety” role. But Matakevich may also find himself fighting to stay off the inactive list even if he does get on the 53-man roster.
The final two inside linebackers on the depth chart, Robert Spillane and Tegray Scales, are players who were signed to futures contracts this offseason who both spent time on other teams practice squads in 2018. In both cases, it will be a very long shot for either player to make it onto the Steelers 53 man roster. At best, they would both need to highly impress in order to make the practice squad.
Out of respect, Ryan Shazier still deserves a mention as a Steelers inside linebacker. Beating the odds, Shazier is continually working to have a chance of playing in the NFL again after his horrific 2017 spinal injury. Shazier himself already said he will not play in 2019.
While the top four spots on the depth chart are up for debate, it is safe to say all four linebackers will be given the chance to showcase their talent. It is a great situation for Devin Bush not being forced into the starting lineup on day one. But if Bush has the skills worthy of trading into the top 10, he should be able to find himself with significant playing time sooner than later.