Are you dizzy yet?
If you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and follow the team with any kind of closeness in knowing the players who are on the field, you are well aware of the constant carousel of players who have been brought to the team to try to improve the inside linebacker position since the injury to Ryan Shazier in 2017. While it seems the Steelers were set at the position with it being a strength as they were more moving towards a possible number one seed for the playoffs, the horrific injury to Shazier has sent to Steelers searching for an answer for more than five seasons.
For 2023, it appears as if the plan for the Steelers are two new faces at the position since they have added both Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts. Whether or not these two are the starters remains to be seen, but they are going to be in the equation. And they are not alone. The Steelers still likely need to have more players at the position for 2023, so there could still be additions coming via free agency or the 2023 NFL draft.
So let’s take a stroll down memory lane, albeit a sad one, to see the number of players the Pittsburgh Steelers have added at the linebacker position since the injury to Ryan Shazier on December 4, 2017. These players are broken down in the three categories as to if they were acquired by free agency, the draft, or by trade after the Shazier injury. These are only players who suited up for at least one game as an available option at inside linebacker. Players such as Tae Crowder, who is currently on the Steelers roster and was added at the end of 2022 but was inactive, will not be included.
Matthew Thomas (UDFA)
Ulysees Gilbert III
Yes, that comes to 14 players. Granted not every player on this list had the expectation of being a starter at the position. It’s really hard to differentiate the expectations, so that’s why I went with players who at least have one game played.
There are a couple notes from the list that I should clarify. Marcus Allen was drafted as a hybrid safety and transitioned to the linebacker position. Also, Devin Bush should really count in two different categories here since the Steelers gave up valuable draft capital to trade up and select him in the draft. So he was a bit of a double whammy as he was used in both the draft and a trade.
On top of everything else, these are 14 different players used at the linebacker position and it doesn’t include Vince Williams who started 40 regular season games at linebacker since Shazier’s injury. So with Williams holding down one of the two positions for the better part of the first three seasons, this makes this number look even worse.
One thing that I must commend the Steelers for doing is the fact that they have not been afraid to move on to different options. While Devin Bush may be the one exception where the Steelers continued to have him on the field as their best option, this was simply because he was a first-round draft pick on a rookie deal. The Steelers wisely did not give him his fifth-year option and did not bring him back beyond his four seasons following the draft. So even though the constant influx of players seems to be ridiculous, it’s not that the Steelers have insisted on sticking with players that seemed to not be improving the situation substantially.
So are the Steelers in a better situation at inside linebacker going into 2023? While Steelers fans can hope that the moves they have made in free agency can improve the situation, until the players get on the field in a black and gold uniform and show what they can do it is all merely speculation. But hopefully Steeler fans will get some reprieve and maybe find an answer at the inside linebacker position for at least the next few seasons.