The Steelers face uncertainty at a position that historically has been a strength of the team. That position is Inside Linebacker (ILB). In addition to a lack of solid depth, the group has questions at the top, with it’s 2019 1st Round selection coming off a severe injury just two seasons ago which caused a substantial reduction in performance in 2021. How does it shake out for 2022? Let’s dive right in.
Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, Ulysees Gilbert III, Marcus Allen, Buddy Johnson, Mark Robinson
Devin Bush holds the key to the entire position group, as his ability to rebound fully from his Torn ACL in 2020 will go a long way to determine the effectiveness of the unit. I, for one, am a believer in his ability to return to form, but it is far from a guarantee. If Bush can turn back the clock pre-injury, a unit that was a liability in 2021, especially against the run, gets a major boost from one of the most athletic ILBs in the game when healthy.
The Steelers big Free Agent acquisition on the Defense was Myles Jack, the former Pro-Bowl ILB from Jacksonville. Jack’s signing didn't necessarily make sense from a stylistic approach, due to his striking similarity to Bush in that regard. However, the combination of Bush and Jack will give the Steelers one of the most athletic duos in the league. Despite not fitting the traditional role of BUCK Linebacker that would typically play opposite Devin’s spot on the Defense, the Steelers value speed and coverage ability, something Jack displays in spades.
Robert Spillane, Ulysees Gilbert, and Marcus Allen are the familiar faces playing backup roles for the guys we have already discussed. None of these three spark much confidence as spot start replacements as we currently sit. Spillane has the most in-game experience, but Gilbert and Allen represent the more athletic and versatile of the three. Gilbert is likely on his final chance to prove he can live up to that athletic potential. If he can show real improvement, you’d feel a lot better about the depth of this squad.
Buddy Johnson and 2022 Draft pick Mark Robinson don’t have much experience at ILB, but their potential is undeniable. Johnson will be given an opportunity to be a contributor in this defense and on special teams. Robinson, a collegiate Running Back for the majority of his career, shows superb but extremely raw athleticism. The Steelers are betting on Linebacker Coach Jerry Olsavsky and Brian Flores to help him grow and grow quickly.
Depth Chart Prediction
Right now the projections are less than stellar for this 2022 collection of ILBs. Despite the obvious skill of both Devin Bush and Myles Jack, the former’s confidence in his health going into the season will likely make or break the unit, and potentially the overall effectiveness of the entire Defense. If Bush isn’t a full go, the Steelers could elect to play Myles Jack more in Bush’s role while supplementing the position opposite with a mix of players including Bush and Spillane.
The team will look long and hard at potentially adding another player at ILB, although I suspect they will ride with their belief in their own ability to develop the depth talent on the roster. The players on the roster now most likely are the ones filling spots on the 53-man roster. The Steelers kept six ILBs in 2021. They could choose to do so again.
STARTERS: Devin Bush, Myles Jack
DEPTH: Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysses Gilbert III, Marcus Allen
PRACTICE SQUAD: Mark Robinson
What is the most likely scenario for Devin Bush in 2022?
This poll is closed
He’s fully recovered. Shows why the Steelers traded up for him!
Fully healthy, but just an average ILB.
Can’t regain pre-injury confidence. Struggles mightily.