With Mark Barron gone, the Steelers will have an open spot for a sub-package linebacker. Here are four dark horse candidates who could take over his former role.
After an amazing defensive performance in 2019, there’s no question the Steelers will boast one of the top defenses again this year. Javon Hargrave was their only significant loss, but Stephon Tuitt is returning from a season-ending pectoral injury while young players like Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds should be improved.
But if there’s one position on defense that is concerning, its inside linebacker. Obviously, Bush showed a lot of promise during his rookie season. However, it gets pretty dicey after that.
‘Buck’ linebacker, Vince Williams, has proven to be a solid run defender and plus blitzer throughout his career, but the former 6th round draft choice all the way back in 2013 has some issues of his own. Williams has never been known for his ability in pass coverage, and this is an area he’s seemed to get progressively worse in.
Despite being labeled as a starter, the now 30-year-old linebacker saw the field for just 37 percent of defensive snaps in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference. At this point in his career, the Steelers know Williams’ limitations in pass coverage and he has become a liability in this area.
Last year, Mark Barron played the sub-package linebacker or “dime backer” role for the Steelers – primarily entering the field in place of Vince Williams in nickel or dime formations when the team would look to defend the pass. Though Barron was average at best at his role last year, he still managed to play nearly 70 percent of defensive snaps in 2019.
Someone is going to need to step up into Barron’s old role this year, but the question is who? Here are four dark horse candidates to replace Barron on the Steelers defense in 2020: