The Steelers Have a Fan in the Jets New GM

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Steeler nation might be able to count new Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan among its citizens. He’s particularly a fan of how the Steelers draft and the 3-4 defense. NJ.com writer Dom Cosentino quotes Mccagnan as saying during a pre-draft press conference,

"“In fact, we really tried to study their success. Pittsburgh always seems to have guys in the pipeline. They had a long period of time where one would be productive, and then as soon as they’ would maybe lose him in free agency, they’d have another step up right behind him. It’s sort of the lifeblood of your 3-4.”"

For a number of years the Steelers had a seemingly endless supply of talented 3-4 outside linebackers. During the 2000s and into the 2010s the Steelers were able to produce and then replace great outside linebacker after great inside linebacker. They went from Joey Porter to Jason Gilden to James Harrison to Lamarr Woodley and more. This dates even back to the 90s with players like Greg Lloyd.

Many Steelers fans will no doubt be quick to point out that the new Jets GM’s statement is somewhat ironic considering our current struggle with outside linebacker. After Woodley succumbed to injury after injury Jason Worilds was our on starting caliber outside linebacker.

Our issues with OLB have been so great as of late that we’ve had to occasionally move inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to the outside and we’ve had to bring back James Harrison despite being, although still serviceable, well past his prime.

The Jets GM referenced a pipeline. He described the strategy of taking an outside linebacker nearly ever draft. It’s difficult to project how a college defensive end will adapt to a 3-4 OLB spot over the 2 or 3 years it takes to learn the spot. Therefore, it’s best to play the odds and keep players coming in.

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Perhaps that’s the issue. Over the last 5 year the Steelers have taken one single potential outside linebacker, Jarvis Jones. This isn’t enough to keep the OLB positions elite. It’s not enough to keep the OLB position occupied.

This is why our 2 outside linebacker positions are occupied by only 3 outside linebackers. One was a backup linebacker we picked up from Buffalo last year. The other is over 35. And the last is Jarvis Jones, who I expect to be a solid player if the injury bug doesn’t strike but has not been a solid player thus far.

The Steelers outside linebacker issues are not particularly mysterious. The Steelers have ignored the position. Sure, they probably expected Lamarr Woodley and Jason Worilds to be a dominating duo at this point but that’s not how it played out and there wasn’t a backup plan.

Maccagnan also said,

"“A lot of teams who’ve had success with 3-4 outside linebackers, you’ll go back and look at the ones they’ve taken shots on, and there’s a good number of misses. But I think the constant thing is they’re constantly sort of stocking that pool.”"

Maybe the Steelers need to get back to their roots. The success of a 3-4 defense hinges on the the outside linebackers often. The success of the outside linebackers hinges on the ability to draft great outside linebackers. If you don’t draft outside linebackers at all you’re not giving yourself much of a chance.

So despite several needs on defense the Steelers are most likely putting priority on outside linebacker. Because although we need a corner, a 3-4 defense can be good with mediocre corners, but not mediocre outside linebacker play. Expect the Steelers to live up to their reputation and pick an outside linebacker early.

Next: Martavis Bryant Role in Year 2

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