This has always been the Steelers position of strength. There is no arguing it. They do linebackers like Petty does cars. This is evidenced by them taking three linebackers in the draft.
The Steelers linebackers were by far, the best in the NFL last year. They may not have gotten a bunch of touchdowns or anything, but they did more than a lot of people think.
Let's begin with the best player amongst the group, LaMarr Woodley. He is universally regarded as one of the top three outside linebackers in the NFL. His pass rush skills are second to none and quite frankly, there is no one who does it better at his position. He is the best Left Outside Line Backer that there is truly no competition. He comes to work every day and completely dominates everyone. I remember seeing some plays where he would have to go through three guys to get a sack....and he did.
Also, many people forget just how much more difficult it is to get a sack from the left side. The Right Outside Linebackers get a ton of sacks for one reason. They are coming from the Quarterback's blindside. That means he can not SEE them coming. Coming from where Woodley plays, it is pretty safe to say they are looking directly at him. If he played Right outside, he would be thought of as the best in the NFL. He is a great cover linebacker and plays with great tenacity. I am a huge fan of LaMarr's, as evidenced by my rather lengthy talk about his position. He is the best bull-rushing Linebacker around.
But...that is not to say that James Harrison is good in his own right. He led the league in forced fumbles two years ago and was very close to leading the league in sacks as well. he more than earned that Defensive Player of the Year win. He didn't have the best season following that, but when you have a large production drop to 10 sacks and four forced fumbles...you know you have a great player on your hands. He is great rushing the passer and is, like almost everyone on the roster, good at zone defense.
Now to the middle linebackers.
James Farrior has been one of the most consistent and long- running players on the Steelers defense. His problem, however, is that he is getting very old for his position. He has clearly lost a step and is beginning into the twilight of his career. He is making a great mentor for the other players, but he is not among the best linebackers around nowadays.
.After him there is Lawrence Timmons. Along with a number of other people, there is a ton of potential in this kid. He is very fast and powerful. A physical freak, he can outrun many running backs and has great acceleration. He also has very good hops which help him in his pass defense. Tomlin is a man who likes to get smaller, faster Inside Linebackers who are good against the pass. It's a good move since the league is almost becoming a complete passing clinic.
The only knocks Timmons has on him are his instincts toward finding the ball carrier. Nothing else. He loves to hit hard, and if he could just do better locating the ball-carrier he'll do great. He also gets plenty of sacks, with seven last season.
I did not go into great detail with the rookie linebackers drafted, but I will talk about the main two. They drafted two outside linebackers. Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson.
Both are very good pass-rushers who are converting from Defensive End to Linebacker this season. I personally like Gibson more due to his size and skill against the run though. They need to develop against the pass, but other than that...they are solid players.