Pittsburgh Steelers' Positional Breakdown: The Linebackers

Jim McMillen@pbblitzContributor IMay 31, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lines up on defense during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Before we start this breakdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers' linebackers, we would like to apologize to our readers for the delay in the release of this post. It has been a hectic few weeks with work and life and we had to take some time away from writing new stuff.

With that said, lets get the ball rolling.

With our breakdowns of the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line & corner backsnow in the books, it is now time to move on to the greatest group in the NFL, the Steelers linebackers.

This group of men includes the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, who replaces the departed Larry Foote, in the starting line up.

A ton of press has been given to 'Silverback' recently, not for his play on the field or as the DPOTY but for his recent refusal to join his team at the White House to meet the President for his annual ass kissing to the voters among NFL fans.

The tradition has been around a long time where the incumbent President invites the winner of the Super Bowl in for a visit and a player of that team almost never turns down the invitation. James Harrison on the other hand has now turned down both Obama and George W. and has recently taken a ton of heat for his actions.

Here at Pittsburgh Blitz, we commend Harrison for being his own man though. We have nothing but respect for him and in no way see his actions as anything more than a man being true to his beliefs. With that said, let's move on to the breakdown of the Steelers linebacker position.

The Starters

Steelers Position Breakdown of the Linebackers

James Harrison - What more can you ask of the reigning defensive player of the year? Harrison was an undrafted free agent who earned his spot on the team with hard work and dedication.

He has racked up 28.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and was the hero of Super Bowl XLIII with his record setting 100 yard interception return for a touchdown. All this and 'Silverback' has only been a starter for two seasons.

Harrison recently turned 31 but he has relatively fresh legs for an NFL player his age, only being a starter for two seasons will help with that.  In his career though, Harrison has went from an undrafted practice dummy to a legit NFL star and possibly the best linebacker in the league.

His play earned him a new contract a few months ago but he should continue to play at the same level regardless since he is used to earning what he gets, he should not lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel now that he is a rich man.

LaMarr Woodley - From Michigan to Pittsburgh, Woodley was Mike Tomlin's second pick ever as the Steelers coach and in just two short years he went from Clark Haggans back up to a star in the league. He is strong and has a bull rush that beats most tackles in the league and his motor is always running at 120 mph.

Woodley broke onto the scene his rookie year with four sacks but two of them came in the playoffs verse the Jaguars.

Those sacks started a streak that only he has ever had as he is the only NFL play to collect a pair of sacks in four consecutive playoff games, including two in Super Bowl XLIII verse Kurt Warner and the Cardinals, the second which caused a fumble that helped the Steelers seal the win.

Just 28 games into his career Woodley has 15.5 sacks an interception and several forced and recovered fumbles on his resume and at only age 24 he has plenty of time to add to it as well. Former Steelers' great, Kevin Greene, once said Woodley is the best linebacker he has ever scene.

Here at Pittsburgh Blitz we have to agree that at least he is one of the best we have come across, with the potential to be the best ever.

James Farrior - I am sure many fans will have an argument with what I am about to say but Farrior is the best free agent pick up the Steelers have ever signed. The NY Jets' loss in 2003 was the Steelers' find for the ages.

Since joining the team he has been the leader of the linebackers and the QB of the defense. He is smart and knows how to play the position with the best of them.

In our opinion, James Farrior is on the brink of being considered one of the best MLB's to ever play for the Steelers, and that's saying a lot with the history the team has had with the position. At age 34 though, Farrior has shown no signs of slowing down yet and is still the leader of the leagues best defense.

Lawrence Timmons -The former 15th pick of the 2007 NFL draft has had to bide his time as a back up to Larry Foote his first two seasons with the team. The recent release of Foote has changed everything for him though. Timmons is finally penciled in as a starter in the middle of the defense and his time to prove his worth is now.

Timmons has showed the potential to be great and if he can live up to the hype he will add a whole new dimension to the Steelers defense.

With his speed and pass rush abilities Timmons could create havoc on inside blitz's. Thus forcing offense's to pick their poison and block Harrison, Woodley or Timmons. Not many teams will have what it takes to block all three.

Timmons also can play OLB which will allow the team to move him around and sub him into several different packages. He is a star in the making and how high he sores is all in how well he performs.

Key Role Players

Keyaron Fox - A former third-round choice of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004 and spent four seasons there. He started four games in 2006 for the Chiefs, but his career has mostly been as a backup and special teams player.

The 27-year-old linebacker came to the Steelers in 2008 and helped out as one of the key players on special teams, appearing in 13 games and finishing second on the team with a career-high 21 tackles in kick coverage.

With the departure of Larry Foote to free agency, Fox is now the primary back up to Farrior and Timmons and must step up his game and show he deserves the role.

Bruce Davis - Outside linebacker Bruce Davis didn't make a single play as a rookie—no tackles, sacks or interceptions—which is why he couldn't wait to get into the weight room and bulk up so he never goes through a season like that again.

A third-round pick in 2008, Davis shouldn't be labeled a bust because he wasn't on the field long enough to show he could play. But he knows the pressure is on him to produce this year. Davis must step up this season and show he belongs and the team.

If Davis does, he should be used in situational packages and as a relief hitter for Harrison and Woodley.

The Rest of the Pack

Here at Pittsburgh Blitz we are not sold on any of the following players being more then special teamers and depth fillers so we won't go into depth on each individually. Of them all, Donovan Woods has shown the most promise.

Woods is listed at OLB but has the size to move inside if needed. His play on special teams is what stands out most about him but injuries derailed most of his season in 2008 and we did not get to see enough of Woods to give a real opinion.

Other linebackers listed on the roster are Andre Fraizer, Arnold Harrison, Patrick Bailey and a pair undrafted free agents who are long shots to make the team in Tom Korte and Andy Shantz. Of the two Korte has the best shot at making the squad after impressing the coaching staff during OTA's with a nice interception off Charlie Batch.

Well that’s the lowdown on the linebackers, thanks for reading and your comments are always welcome. Let us know what you think.

*Check back soon for the eighth edition of this nine-part series. Next up we will be the breakdown of the Defensive line.

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