Dont'a Hightower Rumored to Visit Steelers as Jarvis Jones Visits Cardinals

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2017

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tries to evade  Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots in the first half at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers could see some turnover at linebacker for the 2017 season.

Free agent linebacker Dont'a Hightower reportedly will visit the team, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Meanwhile, Schefter also reported outside linebacker Jarvis Jones will visit the Arizona Cardinals, though the Steelers are interested in bringing him back and the two sides remain engaged in discussions.

Hightower, 27, is arguably the top free agent on the market at this point. The inside linebacker totaled 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2016, and his strip sack of Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl LI was one of the key plays in New England's comeback win.

But Hightower is still most likely to re-sign with New England, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com: 

Even if Hightower did join the Steelers, he wouldn't be a like-for-like replacement for Jones, who plays on the edge, while Hightower generally plays inside. And Jones has never quite lived up to being the No. 17 overall pick in the 2013 draft, either.

Last season, he registered 43 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. In four seasons, he's managed just six sacks and has never been more than a rotational outside linebacker for the Steelers. While he is solid against the run, he doesn't provide the sort of game-changing ability to pressure the passer he was drafted to provide.

So the Steelers could see some big changes in the linebacker group next year, and while Hightower seems likely to return to New England, the thought of pairing him with Ryan Shazier in Pittsburgh's defense has to send shivers running down the spines of NFL offensive coordinators.

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