Steelers and linebacker Clay Matthews still make a lot of sense

Clay Matthews (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Clay Matthews (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Steelers could use depth in the middle of their defense. Here’s why former Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews would be a good fit in Pittsburgh.

By this point in the offseason, the Steelers have made most of the moves that they will make before training camp begins in July. However, there are still a few positions that still have their share of question marks. Linebacker is one of them.

The Steelers took the first step in filling Ryan Shazier’s shoes by moving up for Michigan linebacker, Devin Bush, in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, he’s only one piece of the puzzle. Mark Barron, who was one of the first Pittsburgh players to be cut early in the offseason, was a failed free-agent signing last year who didn’t offer much to the team and certainly wasn’t with the $8.1 million cap number he was about to receive.

But the Steelers need more than what they currently have. Vince Williams has never been mistaken as a coverage linebacker, but the further along he goes in his career, the fewer snaps he’s able to take on. Last season, Williams was limited to playing just 37 percent of Pittsburgh’s total defensive snaps. When he is on the field, he is primarily used as a blitzer and run defender.

Though the free agent pool may be mostly depleted at this point, there are still some linebackers worth giving a look. One of those is former six-time Pro Bowler, Clay Matthews.

Early in his career, Matthews was considered a defensive star of the NFL – six Pro Bowls and an All-Pro in his first seven NFL seasons. However, he hasn’t earned any of those honors in the last four seasons. But that doesn’t mean that Matthews doesn’t have it anymore.

Despite playing just 56 percent of snaps for the Rams last season, Matthews earned 8.0 sacks, 9 tackles for a loss, and 11 quarterback hits. Though Mattews has played much of his career as an outside linebacker in Mike McCarthy’s 3-4 defense, he has plenty of experience lining up all over the formation.

For the Steelers, Matthews could push Vince Williams for the starting ‘Buck’ linebacker position next to Devin Bush, and could potentially be an improvement here. He also has the ability to kick to the outside and rush the quarterback on third downs in addition to being an excellent blitzer from the middle of the defense.

The Steelers will no doubt be counting on former sixth-round pick, Ulysees Gilbert, to help out in coverage situations and he could help fill some of Barron’s former role.

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With Just Gilbert and Robert Spillane as depth options at inside linebacker, the Steelers could use some help at the position to make sure their defense stays near the top of the league. Clay Matthews is no longer the player he once was, but he should come at a reasonable deal and would give the Steelers security in this area.