The Pittsburgh Steelers had strong draft last month, reloading at several positions of need to put together a complete roster before training camp. While the consensus opinion of draft pundits was Pittsburgh’s draft was an overall success, the team still failed to address a major hole at inside linebacker.
Pittsburgh lost franchise favorite Lawrence Timmons to the Miami Dolphins during free agency, leaving the team without a legitimate starting inside linebacker for the 2017 season. The Steelers currently have 2013 sixth round pick Vince Williams slated to start at the next to Ryan Shazier, but he’s been a career backup with limited starting experience in his four seasons in the league.
There are few starting-caliber free agents available that could make a difference at this point in the offseason. Most of the players left are depth players, players with off the field problems, or players considered over the hill. With that in mind, there is only one legitimate option left that would give the Steelers a sizeable upgrade over what they currently have on the roster.
Perry Riley is probably the Steelers best option this late in the game. Riley has had injury issues the past couple of seasons and hasn’t played a full 16 game slate since 2015. When he’s healthy, Riley is a quality inside linebacker that is an absolute force against the run, and he can hold his own when asked to drop into coverage on passing downs.
The Steelers are team that loves to build through the draft and are reluctant to make any significant additions during free agency, but they can’t afford to stick to that strategy this late in the offseason. The inside linebackers they currently have on the roster just don’t have enough talent to be effective starters. If they want to make another run at a Super Bowl next season, they have to sign a player like Riley as soon as possible. Otherwise, 2017 could be a rough year for the defensive unit.
Mike Esposito is the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos Staff Writer at Endzonescore.com. Follow him on Twitter @espo6891