The Pittsburgh Steelers have added some youth to their defense, with the release or decision to part ways with three starters from 2012. One of the biggest names that has gone is outside linebacker James Harrison. While Harrison was not up to his usual standards in 2012, he is still productive and should have at least two years left on his aging body.Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Jones, who was extremely productive on the field for Georgia, suffered through a miserable Pro Day. This definitely had an impact on his draft stock. Of course, had it not been for that sub par 4.9 40-yard dash, he may not have been available for the Steelers to select. While many fans are penciling him in opposite LaMarr Woodley, it is hard for rookies to crack the line-up on defense. He will need to have a lights out camp to even come close to earning a spot in the starting line-up.
Woodley should anchor one side of the defense and will be looking to bounce back from a second consecutive injury plagued season. When healthy, Woodley is a beast off the edge and can be a difference maker. With Harrison now gone, it will be imperative for Woodley to stay healthy and make an impact.
Jason Worilds will finally have a chance to start. After being drafted in the second round, it is no secret that he has not developed in a way that coaches and fans expected. He is coming off a solid 20112 campaign where he filled in for both Harrison and Woodley during injuries. Now, in his contract season, he will have a chance to show the Steelers if he can be a viable option moving forward.
With these three linebackers locked in on the outside, the final battle for a roster spot should come down to former draft choice Chris Carter and 2012 undrafted rookie free agent Adrian Robinson. When healthy, Carter has flashed some ability, but must continue to get stronger as he struggles to set the edge in the running game. Robinson is an intriguing option and a player that had an impressive camp in 2012, flashing some solid pass rush skills.
Undrafted rookie free agents Alan Baxter (Northern Illinois) and Terence Garvin (West Virginia) will also be in the mix during training camp and could surprise. Of course, the major factor in determining that final spot at outside linebacker could come down to special teams, something that may give a veteran like Cater the edge. However, the natural skills of a player like Robinson cannot be ignored. In the end, they keep four outside linebackers on the roster, and likely one or two tucked away on the practice squad.
Over the next few weeks, Steelers101 will break down every position, highlight training camp battles and eventually have the complete 53-man roster as we see it today.
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