LB tops the 5 key positions heading to 2015 season

By Gerry Dulac 8 years ago


Good morning everyone.

It is the slowest time of the NFL season, with the players away from the practice facility and the coaches on vacation until training camp.

But that won’t stop us from taking a look at what lies ahead for the Steelers as they get ready to go to St. Vincent College on July 25.

For the next two weeks, we will look at the five positions that will hold the key to the 2015 season that begins Sept. 10 in New England. We will provide a general rundown, identify the strength and weakness and pick the one player who is ready to have a breakout season.

We will not examine the quarterback position because, well, that is always the most important position on the team.

Today, we will start with linebackers, the No. 1 most important position on the team.


It is likely the Steelers will start four No. 1 picks at linebacker, perhaps as early as the opener in New England.

It will only be a matter of time before Bud Dupree, their No. 1 choice, moves in as the starter at left outside linebacker ahead of veteran Arthur Moats. The Steelers needed a replacement for Jason Worilds, and they think they found him.

Dupree is 6-foot-4, 269 pounds, but he is freakishly athletic for his size. He can rush the passer and drop into coverage, and has the football smarts to quickly pick up the defense. The hope is he will pair with former No. 1 pick Jarvis Jones to provide the type of productive outside tandem the Steelers once enjoyed with Joey Porter and Jason Gildon or James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

Jones enters his third season and has to start to show why he was a No. 1 pick. This is a big year for him.

Harrison is still around – he was brought back at age 37 for one final season – but the former NFL defensive player of the year, has already been told he will have a reduced role in 2015 designed to keep him from wearing down. The danger here is relying on Harrison too much and further retarding the development of Jones.

On the inside, Lawrence Timmons is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. But the key could be Ryan Shazier, a No. 1 pick in 2014, who should make an impact after his rookie season was slowed by injuries. At least, that is the hope.

STRENGTHS: Timmons and the promise that three young No. 1 picks can have a huge impact.

WEAKNESSES: Lack of pressure from the edge. Still waiting for Jones to do something.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Shazier. After being handed a starting job not long after he was the team’s No.1 pick, his rookie season was interrupted by a pair of nagging injuries that caused him to miss seven games and play mostly in a rotation at inside LB. But his speed, play-making ability and increased strength could make him a disruptive force on the defense in his second season.

NEXT: Secondary