Disclaimer: The author realizes that the 2021 Steelers are probably going to be burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options.
The Steelers have talent at inside linebacker with Devin Bush Jr. and Vice Williams manning the middle. But they aren’t very deep and it greatly hurt the team last season. Robert Spillane and Avery Williamson are free agents of some sort and Williams is always being rumored as a cap casualty. Should the Steelers decide that they need to address the position in free agency, this is who is looking for a deal at the position.
ONCE AGAIN. THE AUTHOR REALIZES THAT THE STEELERS DO NOT HAVE THE FUNDS FOR MANY OF THESE PLAYERS. HOWEVER, THIS IS THE LIST OF WHO IS AVAILABLE TO THE ENTIRE LEAGUE AND THE STEELERS. YOU CAN CRITICIZE THE IDIOT AUTHOR ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER OR BLEACHER REPORT COMMENTS SECTION FOR WASTING YOUR TIME AND NOT KNOWING ANYTHING AT ALL, AGAIN AND AGAIN. HOWEVER, THESE WILL CONTINUE TO APPEAR.
Most Notable Free Agent Inside Linebackers
Lavonte David - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Age 31, 6’1”/233 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #4
Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 4.65
Combined Tackles: 117, Solo Tackles: 82, Tackles For Loss: 12, QB Hits: 3, Hurries: 0, Sacks 1.5, Forced Fumbles: 3, Fumble Recoveries: 2, Interceptions: 1, Pass Defenses: 6, Times Targeted: 92, Completions: 67, Completion %: 75%, Touchdowns: 0
Overall: 81.5 (High Quality), Run Defense: 78.9 (High Quality), Pass Rush: 51.2 (Below Average), Coverage: 83.8 (High Quality)
Lavonte David has only been to one Pro Bowl and named All Pro once, but he might be one of the best inside linebackers in the past decade. That was evident in the Super Bowl victory over the Chiefs. David reads plays well, while still having the speed to cover receivers and get to runners. PFF projects a three-year deal worth $40 million for David.
Matt Milano - Buffalo Bills
Age 26, 6’0”/223 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #41
Stats: Games Played - 10, Speed - 4.67
Combined Tackles: 45, Solo Tackles: 35, Tackles For Loss: 4, QB Hits: 9, Hurries: 1, Sacks 3.5, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 1, Pass Defenses: 3, Times Targeted: 35, Completions: 22, Completion %: 62.9%, Touchdowns: 0
Overall: 55.8 (Average), Run Defense: 45.9 (Below Average), Pass Rush: 78.5 (High Quality), Coverage: 54.9 (Below Average)
Milano has been one of the top coverage linebackers in the NFL over the past couple of years and the Buffalo defense felt his absence when he was out for six weeks in 2020. There are plenty of pros when it comes to Milano, with the con being missing tackles. But PFF has the 26-year old getting $12.5 million per year.
Jayon Brown - Tennessee Titans
Age 26, 6’0”/226 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #20
Stats: Games Played - 10, Speed - 4.7
Combined Tackles: 76, Solo Tackles: 45, Tackles For Loss: 5, QB Hits: 2, Hurries: 2, Sacks 1.0, Forced Fumbles: 2, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 1, Pass Defenses: 8, Times Targeted: 58, Completions: 42, Completion %: 72.4%, Touchdowns: 0
Overall: 66.4 (Above Average), Run Defense: 49.6 (Below Average), Pass Rush: 70.4 (Above Average), Coverage: 73.5 (Above Average)
Jayon Brown is another under-sized inside linebacker that struggles against the run, but is fantastic in coverage. In fact, Brown is very good at knocking the ball away from receivers. PFF projects a contract worth around $12 million per year.
Denzel Perryman - Los Angeles Chargers
Age 28, 5’11”/240 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #2
Stats: Games Played - 13, Speed - 47.8
Combined Tackles: 48, Solo Tackles: 25, Tackles For Loss: 3, QB Hits: 2, Hurries: 0, Sacks 1.0, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 1, Times Targeted: 23, Completions: 17, Completion %: 73.9%, Touchdowns: 0
Overall: 83.3 (High Quality), Run Defense: 86.3 (Elite), Pass Rush: 75.6 (High Quality), Coverage: 74.1 (Above Average)
Denzel Perryman is a fine thumper and run-stopper, possibly a throwback to another era. The Chargers did struggle against the run when Perryman was sidelined in 2020 for three games. Although not a three-down defender, Perryman could be a good value to a team for a PFF-projected $6.5 million per year.
Jarrad Davis - Detroit Lions
Age 26, 6’1”/238 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #25
Stats: Games Played - 14, Speed - 4.61
Combined Tackles: 46, Solo Tackles: 25, Tackles For Loss: 1, QB Hits: 4, Hurries: 4, Sacks 0.5, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 0, Times Targeted: 15, Completions: 15, Completion %: 100%, Touchdowns: 0
Overall: 62.2 (Average), Run Defense: 50.8 (Below Average), Pass Rush: 61.4 (Average), Coverage: 72.1 (Above Average)
Davis was a heavy hitter, blitzer and run-stopper, but it has been suggested that Matt Patricia misused No. 40 in Detroit and converted him to a coverage linebacker. Although he ranks average or below in major defensive categories, Davis has value and it could be brought out in Pittsburgh.
Steelers Free Agent Inside Linebackers
Age 25, 6’1”/229 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #36
Stats: Games Played - 12, Speed - 4.77
Combined Tackles: 45, Solo Tackles: 39, Tackles For Loss: 4, QB Hits: 3, Hurries: 4, Sacks 2.0, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 1, Pass Defenses: 0, Times Targeted: 30, Completions: 16, Completion %: 53.3%, Touchdowns: 1
Overall: 66.3 (Above Average), Run Defense: 52.6 (Below Average), Pass Rush: 76.0 (High Quality), Coverage: 73.3 (Above Average)
Spillane is an exclusive-rights free agent and his performance in 2020 makes him a target to return in 2021. When Devin Bush Jr, went down, Spillane exceeded expectations, but he still wasn’t Bush. “Mick” still has plenty of value to the Steelers and will most likely be brought back, but he might be slotted in for a reserve role. However, should the Steelers need to cut cap space in the person of Vince Williams... Spillane could be brought back to start.
Age 29, 6’1”/246 lbs.
PFF Position Ranking - #51
Stats: Games Played - 15, Speed - 4.66
Combined Tackles: 52, Solo Tackles: 37, Tackles For Loss: 3, QB Hits: 2, Hurries: 0, Sacks 1.0, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 1, Pass Defenses: 0, Times Targeted: 21, Completions: 16, Completion %: 76.2%, Touchdowns: 0
Overall: 51.7 (Below Average), Run Defense: 78.0 (High Quality), Pass Rush: 49.2 (Below Average), Coverage: 33.1 (Rookie)
Avery Williamson always had a reputation as a solid linebacker, but he struggled in 2020, especially in coverage. No. 51 arrived in Pittsburgh right before the trade deadline and never really turned heads, But if the Steelers could re-sign Williamson on the cheap, he could be a solid depth piece.
Age 24, 6’2”/215 lbs.
Stats: Games Played - 14, Speed - 4.59
PFF Position Ranking - Not Ranked
Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 0, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Times Targeted: 10, Completions Against: 8, Completion %: 80.0%, Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: 0.0, Combined Tackles: 30, Solo Tackles: 19, Tackles For Loss: 2, Quarterback Hits: 2
Overall Grade 49.0 (Below Average), Pass Rush 58.7 (Average), Run Defense 34.7 (Rookie), Coverage 60.0 (Average)
The exclusive-rights free agent was used more at inside linebacker for the Steelers in 2020 and Allen caught on to his new position quickly. That might just give the Penn State Nittany Lion more of an opportunity to stick in the Steel City.
Other Free Agent Inside Linebackers
De’Vondre Campbell - Arizona Cardinals
Tanner Vallejo - Arizona Cardinals
Tahir Whitehead - Carolina Panthers
Adarius Taylor - Carolina Panthers
Josh Bynes - Cincinnati Bengals
Jordan Evans - Cincinnati Bengals
B.J. Goodson - Cleveland Browns
Malcolm Smith - Cleveland Browns
Tae Davis - Cleveland Browns
Elijah Lee - Cleveland Browns
Sean Lee - Dallas Cowboys
Joe Thomas - Dallas Cowboys
Justin March - Dallas Cowboys
Alexander Johnson (RFA) - Denver Broncos
Joe Jones - Denver Broncos
Reggie Ragland - Detroit Lions
Jalen Reeves-Maybin - Detroit Lions
James Burgess - Green Bay Packers
Dylan Cole - Houston Texans
Kyle Emanuel - Houston Texans
Tyrell Adams Houston Texans
Anthony Walker - Indianapolis Colts
Damien Wilson - Kansas City Chiefs
Kyle Wilber - Las Vegas Raiders
Raekwon McMillan - Las Vegas Raiders
Nicholas Morrow - Las Vegas Raiders
Eric Wilson - Minnesota Vikings
Nate Gerry - Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Vigil - Los Angeles Chargers
Anthony Walker - Indianapolis Colts
Damien Wilson - Kansas City Chiefs
Elandon Roberts - Miami Dolphins
Todd Davis - Minnesota Vikings
Brandon Copeland - New England Patriots
Neville Hewitt - New York Jets
Harvey Langi (RFA) - New York Jets
Patrick Onwuasor - New York Jets
Bryce Hager - New York Jets
Alex Anzalone - New Orleans Saints
Craig Robertson - New Orleans Saints
Duke Riley - Philadelphia Eagles
Joe Walker - San Francisco 49ers
K.J. Wright - Seattle Seahawks
Kevin Minter - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nick Dzubnar - Tennessee Titans
Darren Bates - Tennessee Titans
Kevin Pierre-Louis - Washington Football Team
Reuben Foster - Washington Football Team
Mychal Kendricks - Washington Football Team
Jared Norris - Washington Football Team
If you missed any of the other positions in the series, check them out below.