The Pittsburgh Steelers "base" defense is used to a prototypical outside linebacker. You don't have to list the height and weight, but simply names. Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison...you get the picture.
These powerful men dominated opposing tight ends and tackles en route to the quarterback, causing destruction and devastation along the way. So when fans heard the Steelers selected an outside linebacker in the 6th round with Travis Feeney, most got excited, then they read about his size and thought, "But that doesn't sound like a 3-4 OLB..."
Feeney is anything but the prototypical 3-4 OLB, but the Steelers are slowly transitioning away from having a "base" defense, and deploying more sub package and hybrid defenses. In this case, Feeney certainly fits the bill. Standing at 6-feet 4-inches and 226-pounds, Feeney could certainly put on some muscle, but the team doesn't want to take away his 4.5 40-yard dash speed either.
Many experts have considered Feeney to be a risk, both for health reasons and his lack of prototypical size, but could this 6th round pick follow in the footsteps of another 6th round pick named Antonio Brown and slowly creep his way into the rotation on a regular basis?
Let the tape decide whether that is a possibility.
If this is your first time watching this type of isolated game breakdown, here are some things to keep an eye on while following Feeney on the football field:
- Pass rushing technique
- Speed off the snap of the ball
- Ability to shed a blocker in run support
- Speed rush, as well as both a bull rush and inside move
- Coverage technique/ability to play in space
Washington vs. Oregon
Washington vs. USC
When Feeney ran his 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock called him a strong special teams player. Call me naive, but I don't believe the Steelers would spend a 6th round pick on a player who is destined to only play special teams.
Feeney certainly will fit the bill on special teams with his speed and athleticism, but could he also become quality depth as an outside linebacker? In their sub packages, yes. Feeney's ability to chase down the ball carrier and play in space is something the Steelers would be wise to utilize. As the Steelers run more exotic defensive looks, like the 3-3-5, Feeney could certainly be used as one of those linebackers alongside Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier.
Are you going to see Feeney line up and dominate an NFL starting tackle? Probably not, at least in 2016, but what you can hope for is the Steelers coaching staff finding a way to maximize one of their draft picks skills set to help improve the defense and the team reach their goal of a 7th Lombardi Trophy in 2016.