Position preview: Inside linebacker
Position preview: Inside linebacker
July, 15, 2014
By Scott Brown | ESPN.com
Next in a series that looks at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching, we take a look at the Steelers' inside linebackers.
Returning starter: Lawrence Timmons. This became his group after Larry Foote went down with a ruptured bicep in the 2013 opener and Timmons responded with another Pro Bowl-caliber season. The former first-round pick led the Steelers with 126 tackles, and he also recorded three sacks and tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
New faces: Ryan Shazier. The Steelers drafted Shazier in the first round over a cornerback because they felt they were getting one of the best defensive playmakers in the draft. He opened offseason practices as the starter at weakside inside linebacker and the position will be his to lose at training camp.
On the bubble: Terence Garvin. The West Virginia product made the team last season as an undrafted free agent and played in all 15 games before missing the final contest with a knee injury. Garvin shined on special teams and played on passing downs later in the season. But he may be the odd man out at a position where the Steelers have a crowd if Sean Spence's knee holds up during training camp.
By the numbers: Shazier led the Big Ten with 143 tackles and 22.5 tackles for losses last season. He is one of only 10 Ohio State players to lead the Buckeyes in tackles in consecutive seasons
Did you know: All three times the Steelers have had the No. 15 pick in the NFL draft they have used it on a linebacker. Prior to Shazier they picked Timmons (2007) and Huey Richardson (1991).
Quotable: “I love Ryan. He’s a great kid. He loves this game of football, very dedicated to it. When he first got here I told him, 'Ninety-four (Timmons), man. Just follow him around everywhere you can. Ask all of the questions you can.’ He’s a playmaker. Everybody likes him and he’s going to make a lot of plays for us this year.” – outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Steelers’ 2013 first-round pick, on Shazier.
Outlook: The Steelers turned a position that had been a bit of a question mark into a strength by drafting Shazier. The 6-1, 237-pounder improves their team speed and gives defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau a versatile playmaker that he can move around. Shazier, assuming he plays as well in pads as he did during offseason practices, will start alongside Timmons in the season opener and eventually assume the defensive playcalling duties. Vince Williams, who started 11 games last season at weakside inside linebacker, gives the Steelers a quality reserve. More depth could come from Spence if the former third-round pick makes it all the way back from a career-threatening knee injury.
Mark Kaboly @MarkKaboly_Trib:
Buffalo signs former #Steelers LB Stevenson Sylvester.
The Bills are quietly becoming Steelers north.
Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel
Quietly? They currently employ former Steelers Corbin Bryant, Dennis Dixon, Doug Legursky, Brian Moorman, Frank Summers, Stevenson Sylvester, and Kraig Urbik. I don't think it's quiet anymore.
Originally Posted by phillyesq
As Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus as Lincoln Osirus might say...they've gone full Cardinal. Never go full Cardinal.
Well, I think they got over in taking Urbik. He has been a decent starter for them for a while. Legs is decent, to at least provide depth. I liked when they drafted Dixon but it appears he just doesn't have it. I was shocked when I saw Frank The Tank playing for them; he didn't seem to do anything very well when he was here: not a particularly good blocker or runner.
Originally Posted by RuthlessBurgher
Position preview for Pgh ILB: Timmons and Shazier. Any questions?
Tom Donahoe, Tom Modrak, Mike Mularkey...it has been happening for awhile.
Originally Posted by phillyesq
Well isn"t the GM former Pitt player and was in our FO Doug Whaley???
Yes...Whaley, who spent a decade in our front office as pro personnel coordinator under Kevin Colbert, is now the Bills' GM.
Originally Posted by Bluto
Terrence Garvin isn't a "small linebacker", he's a "big safety"
By Jack Finn on Jul 18 2014
Terence Garvin joined the Steelers last season as a tryout for rookie camp. During the 2013 season he contributed on special teams and at linebacker on defense. Linebackers coach Keith Butler believes he has a promising future in the NFL.
"We got inside linebackers out the butt."
Per Jim Wexell of the Steel City Insider, that's the rather colourful phrase Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler used to describe the Steelers sudden wealth of bodies at the position.
This wasn't always the case though, and it's quite a sharp contrast from the 2013 season. After an injury in week 1 put Larry Foote out for the entire season, the Steelers turned to journeyman Kion Wilson and then 6th round rookie Vince Williams.
There was precious little depth to speak of, and what they had was neither particularly talented or experienced.
Heading into training camp the Steelers have a plethora of inside linebackers who will compete for some serious playing time in 2014. Lawrence Timmons, the most experienced linebacker on the roster, has one ILB spot virtually locked down.
However the second starting ILB spot on the defense alongside Timmons is still up for grabs.
The Steelers 2014 first round pick Ryan Shazier impressed greatly during minicamp, and his freakish natural athleticism makes him a strong favourite to see a large portion of snaps this season.
Then there is Vince Williams, who when pressed into duty performed admirably in 2013. As a 6th round rookie no one envisioned the then 23 year old seeing such significant time on defense, and predictably some growing pains were evident whilst he was on the field. Whilst he had his limitations, most notably in pass coverage, Williams has invaluable experience playing NFL football, something that could set him apart from his peers.
Next up is potentially the best feel good story of the decade, 2012 third round pick Sean Spence. A gruesome pre-season knee injury suffered in his rookie year put him on the sidelines for two years. However that major setback is now in the rear view mirror and after a full and impressive minicamp Spence is primed to compete for a starting role in training camp. He certainly has the mental toughness and fortitude required.
Jordan Zumwalt and Arthur Moats, a 2014 6th round draft pick and recent free agent acquisition respectively, are both position flexible, having practiced at both outside and inside linebacker. Zumwalt, having already missed time with the team due to the NFL's peculiar rules about graduating, does not seem a serious contender to win the ILB job in training camp. Moats is a wildcard, after four years under three different defensive coordinators in Buffalo it's safe to say he hasn't yet reached his full potential.
Finally, there is the guy they're calling "big safety", second year linebacker Terence Garvin. Perhaps most famous for his jaw breaking block on Bengals punter Kevin Huber, Garvin actually went undrafted in 2013, but impressed as a tryout player in the Steelers rookie camp. He continued to impress in training camp, showed an aptitude for special teams and made the 53-man roster.
As well as contributing on special teams, Garvin replaced Williams at starting ILB last season against the Green Bay Packers.
At 6-3, 221-pounds Garvin is an impressive athlete who, according to Coach Butler, has a bright future ahead of him.
"I think you've got to watch the guy we call 'Big Safety,' Terence Garvin," Butler said. "Terence Garvin one day will be a starter in this league. That's my opinion."
"We're so loaded inside we've got to find a place for him, so we're playing him outside and inside, playing him both sides to see if he can learn both. You always have to have a swing guy. Stevenson Sylvester was always the swing guy. Now it's 'Big Safety,' or maybe Zumwalt. We'll see."
Garvin has been working hard to learn both outside and inside linebacker in an attempt boost his chances of both making the team and having a significant contribution, and admits it's nice to get a compliment for his efforts.
"It's tough at first," Garvin said. "But I appreciate it because I feel I learn different things about it. I feel you're forced to learn everything, because you have to learn outside but you have to learn the inside, so you've got to know what different people are doing. That helps you out as a whole."
"I feel in this world you've just got to work," said Garvin. "You can't really worry about different things like that. But that is a good little compliment. I appreciate that. I work hard every day trying to get to that point."
Garvin's work effort is admirable, and he'll need to continue to work hard to earn his spot on the 53-man roster for 2014.
As for his nickname, he's hoping "big safety" sticks, as opposed to Mike Tomlin's preferred moniker.
"Yeah, it's better than 'Little linebacker,'" he said. "Coach (Mike) Tomlin will call me that every now and then. He'll call me 'the Little linebacker.' I also get 'Big Safety.' I'd rather be called 'big safety' than 'Little linebacker' any day."