ShareThis Page

Depth a concern for Steelers' Colbert

| Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, 10:45 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert watches practice Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is worried. He's as worried as one can be in February, and for a pretty good reason.

Upcoming free agency might void the Steelers of not only key depth at a couple of vital positions, but totally decimate arguably their most important position — outside linebacker.

Sack leader Jason Worilds is a free agent and might go elsewhere.

Veteran James Harrison could retire, and Arthur Moats played well enough last year to garner interest on the open market.

That would leave former first-rounder Jarvis Jones and a couple of unknowns — Howard Jones and Shawn Lemon — as the only outside linebackers on the roster.

That would be a problem.

“We are worried about it today, but I feel comfortable that we will be fine once we get to August,” Colbert said this week.

While outside linebacker is the most glaring, it is not the only issue facing the Steelers. Tight ends and cornerbacks are in the same conversation as outside linebackers — not much depth.

Tight ends Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer are free agents, as well as corners Ike Taylor, Brice McCain and Antwon Blake. Blake is a restricted free agent and will likely return, while McCain and Taylor are still up in the air.

With free agency less than a month away, the Steelers find themselves with a lot more questions than answers.

All will addressed shortly, but until then Colbert knows there's not much depth, especially at outside linebacker.

“When you go through an offseason, you see where you finished and you look at the first opportunity to improve your team,” Colbert said. “The first opportunity will be in keeping your own players. The second opportunity would be free agency, and then what is going to be available in the draft.”

The Steelers rely on their outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense to create pressure on the quarterback. Worilds, Harrison and Moats combined for 17 of the Steelers' 33 sacks and 39 quarterback pressure/hurries last year

Jones and Lemon round out the current players on the roster. Jones, a project from Shepherd University, spent last year on the practice squad, and Lemon was recently signed from the CFL.

Colbert said the Steelers could add “young depth” at the position that could include free agency and the draft.

“There will be good candidates,” Colbert said. “Even looking ahead to the draft, that's probably one of the positions that is potentially strong. And I say potentially because outside linebackers for the most part are projections. But right now there are a nice group of candidates for that position.”

Young depth is something that coach Mike Tomlin has talked about adding. Colbert wants to add young and experienced depth.

Last year, the Steelers added Moats and McCain. Both played extensively, both were coming off their rookie contracts and both came cheap. Moats and McCain were signed to one-year, veteran minimum deals and outperformed their contracts.

“I kind of like that type of depth,” Colbert said. “It's an experienced, young depth, as opposed to the rookie that has to be thrown in.”

The Steelers already have young depth at tight end with Rob Blanchflower, but he doesn't fit the mold of what the Steelers want from their second tight end. Spaeth almost exclusively was used as blocking tight end last year. Blanchflower, the Steelers seventh-round pick in 2014, is more of a receiving tight end.

“Well, tight end is a little bit like outside linebacker,” Colbert said. “We have a young, unproven guy in Rob Blanchflower who is like Howard Jones. They are young kids coming off the practice squad and are yet to be proven as NFL players. Yeah, I'm a little concerned about the depth there. Again, you want to have, as we referenced earlier, young depth. So that may include a young free agent. It may include a draft pick.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.