After Paul Kruger finally started earning some of the money given to him in 2013 by posting 11 sacks and forcing four fumbles for the Cleveland, the Browns now find themselves with a pair of once-highly touted players at the opposite outside linebacker position with Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo. Sheard, however, is likely to become an unrestricted free agent after a statistically sub-par 2014 campaign, according to Tony Grossi of ESPN.
While Sheard was the No. 2 ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in run defense according to Pro Football Focus, he only collected two sacks on the season, and the team believes he might not be a good fit in coach Mike Pettine's scheme. Sheard was a defensive end in college so his switch to outside linebacker two years ago might have impeded his growth.
The Steelers, however, find themselves with the opposite sort of quandary; namely, they don't have any depth at the outside linebacker position. Their best outside linebacker, Jason Worilds is set to become a free agent and while the Steelers think highly of the former Virginia Tech star and hope to reach a deal, Worilds' market could potentially push him out of the Steelers' price range. Although Sheard's sack totals were low, Cleveland's base 3-4 scheme isn't similar to the Pittsburgh defense, as coach Pettine has been known to drop his outside linebackers into coverage more often than rush the passer. Even with sack totals not considered, Sheard's prowess as a run stopper could potentially make him a good fit for the Steelers, while his price tag should place him in their range, should Worilds escape in the open market. Additionally, Sheard attended the University of Pittsburgh where he was a standout defensive end, so he still has a local aura to him.
While a team seeking a 4-3 defensive end could potentially be a better fit for Sheard, his price tag and potential could make him a good fit for the Steelers.