Leighton Vander Esch
The Steelers have a stopgap at inside linebacker in Jon Bostic and Vince Williams is still under contract for another year, however, the Steelers are sill looking for a long-term option as a mack linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch may not be ready to start in the NFL, but he has the tools to succeed eventually. His upside is very high and that is a criterion that the Steelers look for.
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Leighton Vander Esch lit up the combine and that shows that he is a top-notch athlete. That also cemented his first-round projection after being considered maybe a second or third rounder. He was a one-year starter and that is a reason he is being knocked down. Vander Esch showed at Boise State that he is a very instinctive linebacker and that is so important to playing the inside linebacker position. Some think that Vander Esch needs to add strength and that could take some time. He also needs to work on getting off blocks. However, if he improves, he could be the Steelers mack linebacker for a long time with his speed to help him cover.
The Steelers need a replacement for Ryan Shazier and although Jon Bostic was signed to be the stopgap, he was only signed for two years and that is a sign that he is not the long-term answer for the Steelers at mack linebacker position. Drafting Vander Esch would give the Steelers a chance at having a star in the middle of the field again. There is also another reason to draft inside linebacker. Vince Williams is under contract for one more year. If he wants to test free agency, the Steelers could make Bostic the buck linebacker and Vander Esch the mack linebacker. This draft pick would also help the Steelers on special teams in the short term as well.