As the days before training camp come to a crawl, fans always have the solace of dissecting different positions and determining who the starters will be. Of course, one of the biggest questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers is who will assume the mantle at inside linebacker after the release of veteran inside linebacker James Farrior at the start of the free agency period.The battle for Farrior’s position will be one of the biggest battles this offseason with veterans Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester fighting it out. Going into camp, Foote appears to have the inside track, after lining up with the starters during the OTA sessions and mini-camp. Foote is well versed in the defense and has started inside earlier in his career before being replaced by Lawrence Timmons. However, he is getting up there in age as well, and could be in his last years in the black and gold.
Sylvester is younger and more athletic and will have a chance to build on the impressive spurts the team saw last season during limited playing time. The 6-2, 230-pound linebacker is more athletic than many believe (4.71 40-yard dash) and has flashed some ability as a pass rusher and has a chance to add that element to the Steelers defense. Unfortunately, while he is a standout special teams performer, he is still a wild card as a long term solution at linebacker, as he has never truly made a lasting impression in the base defense.
On top of that, Sylvester missed time during the OTA and mini-camp sessions (undisclosed injury) and lost ground in the competition before camp gets started. Luckily, for him, these sessions show athleticism more than physicality, and a true determination will come on the field in training camp and during pre season games, a place where, if healthy, his combination of physicality, fluidity and coverage abilities should give him an advantage over Foote.
Yes, Foote is a solid performer who is technically sound, but if the Steelers learned anything from last season, it should be that they need more than steady performances to pressure the quarterback. Sure, the inside linebacker position is not know to provide constant pressure, but when injuries occur on the outside, they need those plays to come from somewhere and that is where they could use an already experienced Sylvester not one coming in cold from the bench.
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