The most celebrated position in Pittsburgh is the linebacker position. The Pittsburgh Steelers always have had a great many fantastic linebackers come and go throughout the history of the franchise. This year the Steelers have another corps of real good linebackers.
The Steelers’ 3-4 style of defense puts the spotlight on the linebackers. To be successful, you need to have two outside linebackers that can rush the passer and two middle linebackers that are strong against the run and have the quickness and agility to guard against the pass.
The outside linebackers that the Steelers have certainly possess the talent and potential to rack up over ten sacks a piece. On the left side of the line will be Lamarr Woodley. He is a pro bowl linebacker who only had four sacks in a disappointing campaign last season. The weak side linebacker is going into this season as the Steelers premiere pass rusher with the exit of James Harrison. The question with Woodley is will he stay in shape? Woodley came into training camp last season “fat” and “slow” according to an anonymous player, and it showed in his play. On the field it simply looked like he didn’t give much of an effort. This year he needs to play like the top tier linebacker that he has shown us in season’s past.
On the opposite side of the field from Woodley the Steelers have a healthy competition between Jason Worilds and first round draft pick Jarvis Jones. Worilds is going into his fourth season with the Steelers, and has shown glimpses of being a high caliber linebacker. He had five sacks last year while switching sides back and forth playing for the injured Harrison and Woodley. Worilds’ competition is tough. Jarvis Jones racked up 14.5 sacks last season with the Georgia Bulldogs and was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The two time All-American linebacker had 13 or more sacks in each full season that he played at Georgia. He is a ferocious pass rusher with a startling fast first step and good strength.
Although it’s a competition, I fully believe that Jones will be starting on that that opposite side of Woodley and will be a strong candidate for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
At the middle linebacker position the Steelers have two tackling machines, Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote. Timmons led the team in interceptions and sacks last season. He was the best player on the Steelers defense last season and was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. The former first round pick had over a hundred tackles last season and was a force on the Steelers defense. When Timmons wasn’t having his name called, it was Foote hearing his. Foote led the Steelers in tackles last season and is now in his second tenure with the Steelers. The 33-year-old linebacker is a leader on and off the field and while he may be one of the players that people gripe over because he is old, but his veteran leadership is something that the Steelers need now as they trim the age off of their roster.
This corps of linebackers is the strongest part of the Steelers roster. It is filled with proven veterans as well as young talent with limitless potential. Timmons, Foote, Jones and Woodley are the key to Steelers defense. If they have good seasons then the defense will be close to unstoppable.