7 Steelers Inside Linebacker Draft Targets
Steelers Inside Linebacker Targets: Round 3-4
Despite everything written up to this point, the Steelers have their two primary inside linebackers on the roster right now in Holcomb and Roberts. Furthermore, they have more pressing needs at cornerback, interior defensive line, strong safety, and possibly offensive tackle.
Therefore, perhaps they could wait until their picks in Rounds 3 and 4 to find their next inside linebacker. With Holcomb and Roberts taking the lion’s share of the snaps, Pittsburgh only has an immediate need for a rotational player.
That player could play on passing downs only to start his career, and as he gets more comfortable in the defense and playing against NFL talent, he could take on a larger role, possibly eventually developing into an every-down starter.
Going into the draft last year, it seemed like a foregone conclusion the Steelers would pick up Conner Heyward, Cam’s younger brother. This came a few years after they reunited the two younger Watt brothers, Derek and T.J., and when the Edmunds brothers (Trey and Terrell) both donned the Black and Gold. So with another Heyward coming down the pipe, it only seems natural that the Steelers would pick him up in Round 4.
But Shaka Heyward is more than just a nepo-baby. He was a tackling machine and high-impact player for the Duke Blue Devils for multiple seasons. Heyward started 41 of 51 career games he appeared in, finishing 13th in Duke history in career tackles (340) and 12th in tackles for loss (32.5).
He recorded four career interceptions and five career fumble recoveries. Heyward finished his career as a team captain and the defensive MVP for the Blue Devils after winning the team’s award for best linebacker two years in a row.
For the Steelers, Heyward could start his career replacing Elandon Roberts on passing downs, but he could develop into an every-down player very quickly. He obviously comes from a very athletic family with a unique background in professional sports. He took big steps forward as a coverage player in 2022 but has always been solid in run defense and can even add some value as a pass rusher in limited reps. If Pittsburgh makes the obvious move by picking Heyward, he would fit seamlessly into their defense.
Daiyan Henley is a prospect that I am very interested in for the Steelers in Round 3 or 4 of the 2023 NFL Draft. I mocked him to them with their third-round pick in my most recent mock draft. This could be a bit of a reach for Henley, depending on how the board falls, but it could be a solid steal in the fourth round.
As I wrote in that mock draft, Henley has been through several position changes, somewhat due to a few injuries. When he settled into playing linebacker in his last two years, he shone brightly, racking up several all-conference honors.
Like many of these players, Henley is also undersized (6’1”, 225 lbs) and comes from programs (Washington State and Nevada) not necessarily known for producing defensive stalwarts. But Henley makes up for his lack of size with his athleticism (8.56 RAS, 4.54 40-yard dash) and penchant for splash plays (five sacks, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles in the last two seasons). He’s also a very reliable tackler, improving his PFF Tackling grade and reducing his missed tackle rate every year.
Were the Steelers to take Henley, he could easily be out-snapping Elandon Roberts on a game-to-game basis come season’s end. While he’s probably not going to play as much against run-heavy teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, or Cleveland Browns, he is a linebacker ready to contribute in today’s NFL.
Given his athleticism, he could probably afford to pack on a few pounds without sacrificing too much speed. By the end of his rookie deal, Henley could be one of the draft's biggest steals.
DeMarvion Overshown has been on NFL Draft radars for several years now. Another safety-to-linebacker convert, Overshown brings a unique size and frame to the position along with outstanding athleticism.
Overshown could truly provide that sideline-to-sideline range at the linebacker position that the Steelers have lacked since Ryan Shazier went down. He could truly cover tight ends and maybe even some slot wide receivers. If everything goes right for Overshown, he could have one of the highest ceilings of any linebacker in this class.
However, there’s also a real possibility that Overshown’s floor is that of the previously mentioned Day 3 linebackers, and he could be out of the league by the end of his rookie deal. He finally put it all together for Texas this year but has been inconsistent in the past. Plus, he doesn’t bring tons of turnover production to the table, especially in recent years.
At the end of the day, of all the linebackers on this list, Overshown strikes me as the least likely to become a Pittsburgh Steeler. Given what the Steelers have traditionally looked for in their linebackers and what they are looking for in them now, he is just not a clean fit.
However, given the changes in the front office and Overshown’s sky-high ceiling, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in today’s NFL, they’ll value speed and athleticism over strength and willingness to take on blocks. But this is the beauty of the NFL Draft; we won’t know until the end of April.