The Pittsburgh Steelers were humiliated when they tried to defend the pass against the Bengals, and their linebackers deserve a lion’s share of the blame.
Immediately following the Steelers disheartening loss to the Bengals in Week 11, I was very hard on Pittsburgh’s defensive backs. I detailed how they were picked on so often by Joe Burrow and Cincinnati’s passing game and how they have become a big issue for Pittsburgh. Now I want to take some time to show why the linebackers have failed miserably this year.
After investing heavily into the position with multiple draft picks surrendered for Devin Bush and a big contract for Myles Jack, fans were hoping to get much better play from Steelers linebackers this year, but to be honest, Pittsburgh’s off-ball linebackers are playing as bad as this unit has over the past several years.
As always, I rewatched the Steelers game the morning after their performance. I knew the LB play wasn’t good the first time around, but it was even worse than I thought when I studied them the on each play the second time through.
According to my charting, all three of Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and Robert Spillane allowed touchdowns through the air against backup RB Samaje Perine. This is a bizarre stat, but it shows just how lax these linebackers were in coverage.
As a result, Jack and Spillane graded out very poorly in this contest according to Pro Football Focus. Bush’s overall grade was salvaged by this run-defense, but all three earned despicable marks in coverage.
Somehow, these gut-wrenching grades don’t even do it justice. These linebackers were flat-out atrocious against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11. Something has to be done soon, and the Steelers can’t go on like this.
Steelers must clean house at LB in 2023
We have seen enough from this group of linebackers. No more excuses about Devin Bush and the knee injury he suffered two years ago. No more saying that Myles Jack is trying to get up to speed with his new team. The sad truth is that not only are these players among the worst in the league at their position in coverage, they just aren’t very good in general.
There is no reason to re-sign Bush or Spillane following the 2022 season, and there certainly isn’t a good enough reason to keep Jack around at his $11.25 million cap number, via Over the Cap.
I can see a scenario where the Steelers truly start fresh at the linebacker position, and I would give them props if they are willing to clean house. If Spillane does return, it better be in a special teams role only, as he has shown that he just doesn’t have the athletic traits to be on the field on defense.
Though Pittsburgh did invest big on Bush, they simply missed on the pick. Pittsburgh will likely need to throw some picks at the linebacker position this April in an effort to fix the issue — maybe as high as one of their two second-round picks (which is typically the sweet spot to draft off-ball linebackers).
Enough is enough. Pittsburgh’s linebackers have been killing their team, and I think the Steelers need to cut ties with all three of their top linebackers during the 2023 offseason.