ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
6'2 1/2 - 265 lbs.
With the release of James Farrior earlier in the offseason, it became clear that the Steelers would start to look for his long-term replacement. While Larry Foote can hold down the fort for a year or two, the team needs to find a player who can play beside Lawrence Timmons for multiple years. The team has Stevenson Sylvester already, but he hasn't shown much as an inside linebacker. He's played well in special teams, but making the transition from tackling returners to replacing the play-caller in the defense is no easy feat.
Furthermore, when evaluating the type of player needed to complement Timmons, Sylvester doesn't exactly fit the mold. That's not to say he wouldn't be good in such a role, rather it would take time and dedication to complete the adjustment.
In the Steelers defense, there are two inside linebackers, and both have different roles. One is supposed to take on blockers, be it a fullback or an offensive lineman. This opens up the lane for the second inside linebacker, who in turn is the one who makes the tackle, and consequently makes a play. In the past, Larry Foote was the "buck" while James Farrior was the "mack;" Foote took on blockers while Farrior made the tackle. When Timmons replaced Foote, he became the "buck" and Farrior remained the "mack."
With Dont'a Hightower, the Steelers would have the perfect replacement for Larry Foote, allowing Timmons to slide over to the "mack" position, which is better suited to his skill set. With his speed, Timmons is better suited to track runners down, instead of taking up blockers, as he's currently doing.
Hightower is a tough linebacker that has no problem taking on blockers. He's physical, and his skills translate well to stuffing the run. He's a liability in coverage at this point, meaning he would have to step out during passing downs, but that could hopefully be improved upon.
Hightower and Timmons are very well suited to complement each other, and they could man the center of the defense for the next decade.