The Steelers had a lot of turnover at linebacker this offseason. Should they consider bringing back Mark Barron on a cheap deal in 2020?
It’s a really good thing the Steelers were able to move up and land Devin Bush in the 2019 NFL Draft. After Ryan Shazier went down with a career-ending spinal injury in 2017, Pittsburgh has been searching for a player with a similar skill set to replace him.
But even with the addition of Bush to an already talented defense, the Steelers aren’t in great shape at inside linebacker. This offseason, Pittsburgh lost Tyler Matakevich in free agency and they cut Mark Barron for cap reasons. In addition, Vince Williams is now 30 years old and is coming off a season in which he played just 37 percent of defensive snaps for the team.
With just Ulysees Gilbert and Robert Spillane as depth options and with Williams being a known liability in pass coverage, should the Steelers consider bringing back Mark Barron on a cheap deal in 2020?
Barron was not the player the Steelers were hoping for when they gave him a big deal last offseason. He was a frustrating defensive player who made his share of mistakes. However, he had some very good games as well.
Barron finished last season with 82 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 3 pass defenses, and an interception. Though he wasn’t worth anywhere near the $8.1 million he was set to receive in 2020 before being cut, perhaps he would be willing to come back to Pittsburgh in a much smaller role.
Obviously, Devin Bush is a player that will rarely come off the field for the Steelers (assuming he stays healthy). But after him, you have a few linebackers that will play part-time roles. Williams is strictly a first (and sometimes second) down player in today’s NFL. While he is still a solid run defender and blitzer, he struggles in both man and zone coverage.
Could Mark Barron still help the Steelers?
Ulysees Gilbert could be in line to take on Barron’s old role. But while he impressed in preseason, he is completely unproven in the regular season, and there’s a chance the 2019 6th round pick isn’t ready for such a responsibility as a nickel linebacker.
Because of this, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where the Steelers would be willing to bring back Barron on a smaller role and a much cheaper deal. The acquisition of Barron to an extremely thin group of inside linebackers would at the very least give Pittsburgh some security and a familiar face if Devin Bush were to miss time.
Barron could also be waiting in the wings in the event that Vince Williams takes another step backward in his 30s or if Gilbert really struggles to pin down his assignments.
At this point in his career, Barron is past looking for a starting role. While there could be better options out there, Barron is a player who knows the system and could provide security at a position with a lot of question marks.