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Steelers News: Will the Steelers keep 5 outside linebackers?

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Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. With the scheduled start of training camp just days away, it looks like we’ll have to wait until opening weekend to see the Steelers take the field. Just because the NFL has cancelled the preseason doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the reserves at the outside linebacker position.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Who is earning a spot on the Steelers depth chart behind T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree

Room for five outside linebackers on Steelers?

By: Dale Lolley, DK Pittsburgh Sports

The Steelers will open training camp July 28 at Heinz Field. As is usually the case, camp will include a number of battles, not just for roster spots, but for starting jobs.

This series will take a look at those battles as we head into camp.

Today: Backup outside linebackers

Who: Alex Highsmith, Ola Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, James Lockhart

The Skinny: T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are locked in as the starters and came within a half a half sack of the team record for combined sacks by the starting outside linebacking duo.

They’ll both play 85 to 90 percent of the snaps. But with Anthony Chickillo gone, somebody needs to pick up the slack to handle those 10 to 15 plays per game when Watt or Dupree aren’t out there. Chickillo played 143 snaps in 11 games in 2019.

Adeniyi was the fourth outside linebacker last season and that added up to playing 62 snaps, mostly when Chickillo was out, so in reality, we’re talking about somebody to handle around 200 snaps, assuming Watt and Dupree stay healthy.

Highsmith, a third-round draft pick, is making the roster. But the question is whether he’ll be ready to make the jump from Charlotte, where he was very productive as a senior, to the NFL?

If not, the Steelers might feel the need to keep five outside linebackers instead of four, opening up another spot on the roster.

Adeniyi, as the most experienced player among the group, would seem to have one of those spots all but locked up. He played 222 special teams snaps last season in addition to his play on defense.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Previewing the Steelers defensive line

Steelers’ 90-man roster: DL

By: Jim Wexell, Steelers Digest

ON THE ROSTER NOW: Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Josiah Coatney, Carlos Davis, Dewayne Hendrix, Cam Heyward, Dan McCullers, Henry Mondeaux, Calvin Taylor, Stephon Tuitt, Cavon Walker, Chris Wormley.

ON THE ROSTER IN SEPTEMBER: Over Mike Tomlin’s 13 seasons, the Steelers on the average have kept 6.46 defensive linemen per season, so it has either been six or seven seemingly every other season.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT: Even being without starting defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt for 10 games last season, the Steelers allowed only 3.8 yards rushing per carry, their best per-carry run defensive average since 2012.

KEY DEPARTURES: A big part of that run defense is gone with the departure of starting nose tackle/nickel tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency. Not an insignificant loss, but it became clear the Steelers couldn’t pay all three of their starting linemen top dollar. Losing a still-ascending 27-year-old homegrown product is difficult, particularly being that Hargrave was an interior defensive lineman who can pressure quarterbacks (four sacks last season).

KEY ADDITIONS: Wormley couldn’t stop talking about his childhood love for the Steelers at his coming-out NFL Combine in 2017. The Steelers were interested in the Michigan prospect with the classic Steelers 5-technique frame (6-5, 298), but the Ravens drafted him in the third round. He played three seasons with the Ravens, made.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Will Ben Roethlisberger be responsible for many bounce-back seasons?

Steelers training camp questions: Can they bounce back under Ben Roethlisberger?

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

The Pittsburgh Steelers open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28 at Heinz Field. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:

Will Ben Roethlisberger’s return be the catalyst for JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner to have bounce-back seasons?

Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offense was stilted and toothless last season. Defenses weren’t convinced in the ability of backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges to throw the ball downfield. The pair ranked last in the NFL for average completed air yards at 4.5, allowing defenses to load up the box to stuff the run.

Although the Steelers averaged 90 rushing yards per game in 2018 and 2019, yards per carry dropped to just 3.7 last season, down from 4.2 the year before. Roethlisberger’s return will force defenses to defend the pass and free up room for running back James Conner to work. And while JuJu Smith-Schuster will definitely benefit from Roethlisberger’s return, the bigger catalyst to a bounce-back season will be the emergence of a solid No. 2 receiving threat. That guy could be Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron or rookie Chase Claypool. Though Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards in 2018, his completed air yards per attempt was only slightly better than Rudolph and Hodges’ at 4.8.

But as the No. 2 receiver to No. 1 Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster had a Pro Bowl season with 111 receptions, 1,426 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Without Brown, Smith-Schuster was targeted far less last season — just 70 times — but that was due to a combination of factors: his health, lack of consistent receiver support and quarterback instability. Roethlisberger has a proven chemistry with Smith-Schuster, but his return alone can’t spark a comeback for the fourth-year receiver.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

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