The departure of Dick LeBeau as the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers has opened some doors. None wider, however, than the door opened for newly crowned defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who now has the opportunity to make his mark on the NFL.
Keeping with the trend of setting new precedents and getting a jump on team-building, the Steelers have signed CFL standout DE Shawn Lemon, who became an official member of the Steelers after the Calgary Stampeders granted his release. Typically, NFL teams can't sign CFL players until Feb. 10th.
In Canada, Lemon had a very successful 2014, totaling 13 sacks to go along with his league-record eight forced fumbles. Fortunately for both Lemon and the Steelers, coaches of the Stampeders see the 26-year old's talents translating to the NFL game, according to George Johnson of the Calgary Herald.
"He's a good fit (in Pittsburgh) because they only have one linebacker (Jarvis Jones) under contract there as of now, he'll be able to rush off the edge and he's accustomed to dropping into pass coverage,'' says Stampeders defensive line coach DeVone Claybrooks. "Their system will be conductive to him being successful, which is very important."
With Lemon likely to switching from defensive end to linebacker, the importance of a good system can't be underplayed. Butler's new schemes and desire to secure athletic pass rushers will surely help to aid the Steelers newest acquisition.
The Steelers are familiar with finding diamonds in the rough, as James Harrison was secured as an undrafted free agent, cut from the team three times and contemplated retirement before getting a real shot with the team. Possibly having played his last game for Pittsburgh, the former Defensive Player of the Year will be remembered as one of the most successful linebackers in Steelers history. Lemon, like Harrison, is considered "undersized".
Lemon will look to join Miami's prolific pass rusher Cameron Wake as a CFL to NFL success story. Wake and Lemon share a similar build, as well as a familiar backstory, both players having gone undrafted and succeeding in the CFL before being granted an NFL shot. The Steelers will hope Lemon can give them a boost like Wake has provided the Dolphins, as the former Penn State standout has been elected to the Pro Bowl four times and finished the 2014 season with 11.5 sacks.