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Steelers

Steelers face offseason questions at outside linebacker

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 8:09 a.m.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is sacked by Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The Steelers defeated the Ravens 26-9.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is sacked by Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The Steelers defeated the Ravens 26-9.
Arthur Moats was one of the Steelers linebackers playing a new role last week in the absence of injured Ryan Shazier.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Arthur Moats was one of the Steelers linebackers playing a new role last week in the absence of injured Ryan Shazier.
Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo plays against the Falcons Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo plays against the Falcons Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 at Heinz Field.

Over the past quarter-century, it's been arguably the most high-profile defensive position on a franchise that's associated with defense: outside linebacker.

But the Steelers face quite a few decisions at outside linebacker going forward.

Of the four players at the position who finished the season on the Steelers' 53-man roster, three are free agents and another is due a huge contract option to be exercised for 2019.

"Truly, at the end of the day it could and may only be me and T.J. (Watt) left in the room (in 2018)," Bud Dupree said. "So we will have to see what is going on."

At least the two starters at outside linebacker, Dupree and Watt, are the ones who are under contract for this coming season. Still, the projected $9 million-plus option for Dupree for next season hangs over the head of the and the organization, which has until May to announce if it is exercising it.

The two backups, Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats, have expiring contracts. Chickillo, at least, is a restricted free agent. That makes it likely (though not assured) he is back for 2018 – but only to then be an unrestricted free agent next spring. Moats is unrestricted.

The only other outside linebacker on the offseason roster is converted defensive end Farrington Huegenin .

"It's been a very competitive position room," Huegenin said. "You like it like that."

That room might look much different in 2018 than it did as recently as Week 15 of the 2017 season. You might remember James Harrison's departure , too?

A popular teammate who had 11 ½ sacks for the Steelers between 2014-16, Moats could be brought back – but at age 30 in March it would be for much less than the $2.5 million average annual salary he made the past three seasons, and it would be more as a backup and special teams player.

Chickillo had three sacks in largely limited action this season (two starts, 27.4 percent of the team's defensive snaps). He made $615,000 last season; as a restricted free agent, the Steelers would have the right to match any offer he gets.

Think the Steelers will draft an outside linebacker? They've invested three of their past five first-round picks at the position.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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