Linebacker remains position in need of depth for Steelers
Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler already had first-round pick Jarvis Jones, but wasn't nearly satisfied.
Butler wanted more in the second round.
“I told them the last time we picked first and second with linebackers, we won the Super Bowl two years later,” Butler said. “I tried to make that argument.”
You'd figure a team that has $117 million tied up with their three returning linebackers — not including using the 17th overall pick on the position — would make Butler breathe a little easier.
The Steelers' most important position has issues.
LaMarr Woodley needs to stay on the field and, according to Butler, that means taking care of his hamstrings; Jason Worilds, not Jones, has to find a way to make up for the loss of James Harrison; Stevenson Sylvester has one final shot to impress on the inside; and last year's third-round pick Sean Spence won't play this year while still recovering from a major knee injury during the preseason.
It's understandable why Butler was pushing for another linebacker early in the draft. The Steelers did add Florida State's Vince Williams in the sixth round to provide depth at inside linebacker behind Lawrence Timmons and the soon-to-be 33-year old Larry Foote.
“We will find out what we have and how we stack up,” Butler said.
The Steelers were hoping to have Spence ready to step into the starting lineup after drafting him in the third round last year. But Spence dislocated his knee, tore multiple ligaments, and did damage to the peroneal nerve behind the knee in the preseason.
“It would be miraculous that if he does come back (this year),” Butler said. “It would be miraculous if he came back next year. So we are going to take a chance on him and see if he can come back. And to me, he is worth it every bit of it.”
Butler's biggest issue is Woodley and getting him back untracked. Woodley has missed nine games over the past two years and saw his sack numbers fall from 131⁄2 in 2009 to four last year.
“LaMarr has to get on the field,” Butler said. “We have to do what it takes to get on the field and make sure that his hamstrings are in the top shape that they need to be in to play a solid year. A solid year and not miss any time. We're going to try to do what we can to make sure we remedy that.”
The Steelers added 15 free agents following the draft including Penn State tackle Mike Farrell (6-6, 303) of Shady Side Academy to bring their roster to 89. Farrell started every game this past season, with nine starts at right tackle and three at left tackle. Also signing as undrafted free agents were Northwestern defensive end Brian Arnfelt (6-4, 298), Northern Illinois linebacker Alan Baxter (6-0, 238), San Diego State guard Nik Embernate (6-4, 304), Utah receiver Reggie Dunn, (5-9, 178), Notre Dame tackle Mike Golic Jr. (6-4, 300), Louisiana-Layfayette defensive end Cordian Hagans (6-4, 299), Alabama-Birmingham guard Chris Hubard (6-4, 286), Florida defensive tackle Omar Hunter (6-0, 318), Hawaii long snapper Luke Ingram (6-5, 258), West Virginia center Joe Madsen (6-3, 310), USC running back Curtis McNeal (5-7, 191), Baylor center Ivory Wade (6-4, 313), Michigan State defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White and West Virginia wide receiver J.D. Woods (6-0, 203). The Steelers have a rookie minicamp scheduled for this weekend.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib
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