INDIANAPOLIS — Billy Davis began his professional coaching career in Pittsburgh, learning from the likes of Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau, and in some respects is trying to build the Eagles defense in the Steelers likeness. To do so, he will have to bolster the outside linebacker position, which has long been a critical component of Pittsburgh’s attack.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has had a hand in the assembly of the Steelers’ roster since 2000. We asked him what he looks for in an outside linebacker.
“Outside linebackers have to do three things: they have to play in the tight end, they gotta rush the passer and they have to be able to cover,” he said at the combine Thursday. “So you’re looking for a certain set of athletic skills to be able to do all three. But the main thing is they have to be able to rush the passer.”
When asked about pending free agent Jason Worilds, Colbert mentioned that the 25-year-old possesses all three skills. Given how hard it is to find quality edge rushers, it’s fair to assume the Steelers will fight to keep Worilds in Pittsburgh. No team is going to want to give up a quality OLB, so the Eagles will have to be creative in their search.
Perhaps the draft is the answer. Colbert said that in the 30 years that he has worked in this profession, this draft class is the deepest and most talented that he’s seen. Even so, the process of identifying sure-fire 3-4 outside linebackers can be a difficult one, especially with so many college teams running the 4-3, the GM explained.
“Most of our outside linebackers that have come through our defense were college defensive ends,” he said. “That’s why we had a certain comfort level with Jarvis Jones last year because he came from a 3-4.
“You have to look at their raw athletic ability. The defensive ends, a lot of times they haven’t dropped, they haven’t caught balls. They will do some of that today, we’ll build on that in their Pro Day and see what they can do not only athletically but mentally as well because it’s a different challenge. They have to become not only a player coming forward but a player that plays in reverse as well.”