Why the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t draft an inside linebacker
PITTSBURGH — All seven rounds and eight Pittsburgh Steelers picks of the 2017 NFL draft came and went without an inside linebacker joining the Steelers.
They snagged one in undrafted rookie free agency. But at the end of an offseason in which the Steelers lost Lawrence Timmons, a staple of the last decade at the position, to the Miami Dolphins, Timmons wasn’t replaced in the draft.
His successor was signed last August – to a contract extension – general manager Kevin Colbert said.
“Again, if you go back to the previous free agency period, we knew there was a chance Lawrence would leave and that’s why we signed Vince Williams to an extension, and we’re very confident in Vince,” he said.
In what Colbert described as Timmons’ first true trip through free agency, the Dolphins offered him a two-year, $12 million contract with $11 million guaranteed. Pittsburgh didn’t match, failed to sign Dont’a Hightower in free agency and Williams remained in line to start for the Steelers. Much of this was part of the plan when Pittsburgh inked Williams to a three-year, $5.5 million deal before last season, Colbert said, though he noted the team would’ve picked an inside linebacker if one made sense to them in this draft.
- How his teammates reacted at the time
Williams has started 17 games in four seasons with the Steelers. Four came last year as Ryan Shazier recovered from a sprained knee. He started his first 11 games as a rookie. The former Florida State sixth-round pick has 189 career combined tackles — 139 solo, 50 assisted.
Like Timmons, who he replaces, Williams is better at stopping the run then chasing slot receivers or faster tight ends in coverage.
Unlike Timmons, he’s largely featured on special teams in recent seasons. Though he got 269 defensive snaps in last season, what he did in his first three years is what told Colbert he could shorten the odds on the gamble that was this offseason in the heart of the Steelers’ defense.
Said Colbert: “There will be competition in there, but obviously Vince is a leader, I would believe, going into the season.”
Steelers 2017 NFL Draft picks
1st round: No. 30 overall – T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
2nd round: No. 62 overall – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
3rd round: No. 94 overall – Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
No. 105 overall – James Conner, RB, Pitt
4th round: No. 135 overall – Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
5th round: No. 173 overall – Brian Allen, CB, Utah
6th round: No. 213 overall – Colin Holba, LS, Louisville
7th round: No. 248 overall – Keion Adams, OLB, Western Michigan
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