Pittsburgh Steelers: The Time of the Linebacker is Back in Pittsburgh


The Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to rebuild their defense after years of dominance. But now, they look to be headed in the right direction and have one position ready to dominate.

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Last season, Ryan Shazier became the focal point of a Steelers linebacking core that is finally making the turnaround. Finishing second on the team with 87 tackles, Shazier has taken over the middle linebacker role as well as people hoped.

Entering his fourth season in the league, Shazier finished his second 85-plus tackle season. Making the 2016 Pro Bowl and claiming the role as the shirtless freak, Shazier is now a household name in the NFL.

With his speed and athleticism, Shazier has redefined the linebacker position. Now, that the Steelers, are finally turning their defense around, Shazier is becoming a leader and the face of this defensive unit. As Pittsburgh begins to take the final steps towards finishing this roster, Shazier is looking to turn 2017 into the season his best year yet.

As he strives to be, “the Kevin Garnett of football,” he’ll have the first season as the real leader of this team. With Lawrence Timmons now gone, Shazier is considered a veteran leader at the age of 24-years-old. This season, he’ll be a contributor in coverage and run stuffing. He has the hands and the instincts to handle both. With three interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2016, he proved he can do just about anything Pittsburgh needs him to.

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The other force in this linebacking core is Bud Dupree. After sliding to the Steelers in the 2015 draft, Dupree has developed into a dominant pass rusher. His quickness off the ball and speed are a deadly combination he worked with all of 2016. As he became stronger and learned to use his arms to deliver a blow then get past the tackle, Dupree is quickly turning into the team’s best pass rushers.

These two have already started to rebuild in Pittsburgh. Dupree and Shazier have potential to be the next generation of historic linebackers in the Steel City. But what looks even better for this unit is their 30th draft pick.

The Steelers have a chance to add the next piece to the puzzle. The 2017 draft class features talent deep into the second round. At pick No. 30, Pittsburgh will find someone who’s ready to step in immediately. If they luck out, they could add another pass rusher to the mix. Opposite of Dupree, another talented backer could be the final addition to this unit.

Saying who the Steelers land in the first round is nearly impossible. Brandon Kring has Pittsburgh selecting Takkarist McKinley with the 30th pick. The bigger version of a Bud Dupree, McKinley has speed and athleticism, but uses his strength as his first option at the line.

McKinley would be the finishing touches to the edge rush of the Steelers. He and Dupree would be a dynamic duo from the outside. Shazier will work from the inside alongside who likely will be Vince Williams. Add it all together, and the equation is the return of Steelers’ dominance in the linebacking game.

None of this is a stretch. Dupree and Shazier have already proven themselves. McKinely is considered one of the top edge rushers in the draft class. He’s ready to start straight out of college. Put all three together, and the Steelers have a preeminent group of players at the linebacker position.

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It’s time to get excited. There is few things Steelers fan like more than watching the opposing quarterback get hit. After the draft, fans could get start to see the days of Pittsburgh defensive dominance begin again. The deadly combination is the beginning, but it shows a future, starting in 2017, that’s very bright.