The Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebackers ran into a bit of a wall in 2021. The trade acquired Joe Schobert was nothing more than average, and disappeared at times throughout the season. His acquisition was supposed to be an upgrade over the retired Vince Williams, and make the inside linebackers more athletic in general. With Schobert under contract for more than what an average linebacker should be making, the Steelers will likely be looking in another direction for a player to line up beside Devin Bush.
As Bush struggled coming off of an ACL injury in 2020, the hope is the defensive line will be back at full health this season. On top of that, the addition of linebackers coach Brian Flores should equate to Devin Bush being in a better position to succeed in 2022. But to give him the best chance of reaching his true potential he also needs a proper running mate beside him at inside linebacker.
Below are some names of veterans and incoming rookies who could do the job beside Bush. When it comes to veteran players I think experience is the true factor in finding Bush’s success. As for the rookies, I think an athletic freak with heavy hitting power is exactly what you would want beside Bush from a youngster.
Free Agency: Anthony Walker Jr., Don't’a Hightower, Anthony Hitchens
Signing a free agent makes a lot of sense for the Steelers, especially considering the addition of linebackers coach Brian Flores. Flores is connected to a number of free agents having coached them in the past, including Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Having a player who knows what Flores expects out of them, and can lead the group, would take a weight off of Bush‘s shoulders. We all know Bush doesn’t call the defensive adjustments, so having someone who can do that would be a big move.
Former Browns linebacker, Anthony Walker Jr., is an interesting free agent prospect because when healthy he definitely made Cleveland’s defense better. Adding a division rival’s player not only strengthens your own team, but weakens your rival. Much like what the Steelers experienced when they lost Mike Hilton to the Cincinnati Bengals. Walker is athletic and a thumper who can make this defense better.
The NFL Draft: Devin Loyd, Nakobe Dean, Christian Harris
As for the draft, I believe if the Steelers want to go hunting for a starting caliber linebacker, they will have to do so with either their first or second round picks, clearly first round pick being more likely to land a starter. Selecting anyone any later than that would not be doing Devin Bush any favors and put more pressure on him to leave the defense and make sure these players are in the right spot.
The most interesting name to me is Devin Lloyd from Utah. Not only would Lloyd create an all ‘Devins’ linebacker room, but add incredible talent to the defense. Lloyd is extremely athletic and one of, if not the, best linebacker in the draft. He could be everything the Steelers would want from the position.
Nakobe Dean was the leader of the national champion Georgia Bulldogs defense. The Steelers definitely could use a player that could spearhead the defensive side of the football. On top of that, Dean is a solid player.
Finally, Christian Harris of the Alabama Crimson Tide has been a staple in the program for a long time. Like any Crimson Tide prospect, Harris should be as pro ready as anyone.
But what do you think? How should the Pittsburgh Steelers address the spot beside Devin Bush? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.