No one expected the Pittsburgh Steelers to go through seven rounds without drafting an inside linebacker, but that’s exactly what happened.
From the 28th pick to the last pick in the NFL Draft, fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers were waiting on their team to select an inside linebacker. Coming into the draft, that’s all anyone heard about. How a coverage inside linebacker was their top priority.
Apparently priorities change, because the Steelers went seven rounds without calling on one. Leaving all of us wondering – why all the hype if it wasn’t the direction they were going?
There’s no way everyone was thing wrong. For three months all anyone talked or wrote about was that the Steelers were looking to find a player to fill the void left by Ryan Shazier. Even after signing Jon Bostic, finding a younger player with the ability to play both run and pass was regarded as their top need.
Their draft was a success. Even without an inside linebacker, finding players like James Washington, Mason Rudolph in the third and Marcus Allen and Jaylen Samuels in the fifth was never a thought prior to April 26.
They replaced Martavis Bryant with a bigger star. Washington is going to fit into this scheme perfectly and compliment Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster better that Bryant. He’s a deep threat who can play the slot, and Ben Roethlisberger is going to love that.
Mason Rudolph at the top of the third was the biggest steal of the draft. People projected him to be a possible first-round pick, but somehow, the Steelers knew they could wait. Replacing a wide receiver and losing a seventh-round pick for their next franchise quarterback was nothing shy of genius.
Finding Marcus Allen and Jaylen Samuels in the fifth-round was a Day 3 steal. Allen should never have fallen that far, and when he was around, Pittsburgh had no choice but to take him. He’s a do-it-all safety who can be productive from the first day behind Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett.
Passing up on a player like this needs to be justified, and despite there being inside linebackers on the board, Allen was much further ahead in his development than most of them.
Jaylen Samuels was a major pickup. A former college tight end turned running back, Samuels has all the skills to be Pittsburgh’s pass catcher out of the backfield. Alongside Le’Veon Bell and James Conner, Samuels becomes an immediate role player in a now much more solidified running back trio.
But without an inside linebacker, this draft is questionable. There was plenty of opportunity to fill the need, and time and time again, the Steelers went a different direction. Josey Jewell, Malik Jefferson, Shaquem Griffin, all names that were available at one time or another for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nothing was done, though. Now, the question is how much of an impact will having to rely on Bostic, Tyler Matakevich and L.J. Fort be. None of them are particularly strong in the pass coverage, there remains a weak spot in the defense.
This team could place Allen or Terrell Edmunds in the dime packages and be safe. They now have more than enough hard-hitting safeties to play coverage schemes. But in the base 3-4, defending against the pass will have a spot open over the middle.
This weakens their draft class as a whole. They have one position of need and they didn’t take advantage of filling it. What that means no one knows. But the Steelers came out of the draft with a ton of talent, but a remaining need.