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Thread: Backers to the future: Young Steelers LBs to watch

      
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    Default Backers to the future: Young Steelers LBs to watch

    Backers to the future: Young Steelers LBs to watch
    August 20, 2011
    By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com

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ID:	3070PITTSBURGH -- The way Dick LeBeau sees it, the Steelers must never be short of talent at linebacker. In the 3-4 defense he coordinates, it's the linebackers who are set up to be the most prominent playmakers.

    "In a four-linebacker system, you need ‘backers who start and reserve ‘backers who can start," LeBeau said.

    No position on the team has had more Pro Bowler than the linebackers since 1992. That's when Bill Cowher arrived in Pittsburgh and permanently made the made the switch from 4-3 to 3-4. Ten Steeler linebackers have made it to the NFL all-star game at least once since that change in defensive philosophy.

    Virtually every year in the draft, the Steelers pick at least one linebacker to make sure they're well-stocked.

    "Usually, it takes a while to learn the defense," linebackers coach Keith Butler said of Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester and Chris Carter, the team's three most recent draftees at linebacker. "So they have a lot to learn. They're in that process right now.

    "But I like ‘em. They have a chance to be good players for us someday."

    JASON WORILDS

    Second-round pick, 2010

    The Steelers have no reason to believe Jason Worilds will end up a bust like their second-round pick in 2003. He's not the second coming of Alonzo Jackson.

    "Jason is starting to get comfortable with what he's doing within the defense," linebackers coach Keith Butler said. "He looks a little quicker out there at times. He looks a little stronger out there at times. He still has a long ways to go, but I look for him to be better and to be a contributor for us."

    Like most young linebackers drafted by the Steelers over the years, Worilds must bide his time on special teams while continuing to learn the idiosyncrasies of Dick LeBeau's defense. He must wait for his chance to start.

    That could come in maybe one, two or three years, pending the health of right outside linebacker James Harrison, who's 33 and still not 100-percent recovered from two off-season back surgeries.

    Worilds, a second-round pick in last year's draft, is actually the Steelers' first option behind Harrison and left side outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. If either Harrison or Woodley need a rest or were hurt, next on the pecking order is Worilds.

    "Things are a lot better for me than in Year 1," he said. "I'm a year better. I'm a year more mature. I know the environment. It's pretty cool being the No. 3 guy. Naturally, I want to be in the top two. But to be behind those two guys is an honor. It's an honor for me to be part of this great Steelers lineage at linebacker."

    Like so any of the Steelers' outside linebackers since former coach Bill Cowher made the 3-4 defense a staple in Pittsburgh, Worilds, who's 6-foot-2 and 262 pounds, was a defensive end in college. He played in Virginia Tech's 4-3 scheme and recorded 15.5 sacks in two years as a starter.

    Jackson, who recorded 23 sacks at Florida State, only lasted two years with the Steelers and never had a sack. Last year as a rookie, Worilds had two sacks. He figures to have many more in years to come.

    Worilds has been bothered by a groin pull at times this summer. In fact, he left practice Saturday when he pulled up lame. Still, he says, "My time will come."

    STEVENSON SLYVESTER

    Fifth-round pick, 2010

    A year ago, Stevenson Sylvester made a huge rookie mistake. For the first road game of the regular season, he drove to the wrong airport and missed the 3 p.m. charter flight to Nashville. Instead of driving to Pittsburgh International Airport, he got directions to Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

    By the time he realized his mistake and drove to Pittsburgh International, the team plane was long gone. So he flew commercial on Southwest Airlines. But that flight had a connection in Chicago with a one-hour layover.

    "It was crazy," said Sylvester, an inside linebacker who's 6-foot-2 and 231 pounds. "My heart was rushing. My first road game ... as a rookie, you don't want to mess up. But sure enough, I did."

    Luckily for Sylvester, he arrived at the team hotel in Nashville on time to make the evening team meeting. He was chewed out by coach Mike Tomlin. But Tomlin still dressed Sylvester the next day, and he played well.

    On the opening kickoff, he threw a block that helped spring Antonio Brown for an 89-yard touchdown return. On the subsequent kickoff, Sylvester forced a fumble the Steelers recovered in their 19-11 upset of the Titans.

    Sylvester went on to play in every game, playing primarily on special teams.

    Last year, he was third-team behind starters James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons and backups Larry Foote and Keyaron Fox. This year, with Fox no longer on the team, Sylvester is Timmons' backup. He could be who replaces Farrior, who's 36, in a year or so.

    "When I found out I was drafted here, I had to do a double take and see if it was true because this is such a great place for linebackers," said Sylvester, an outside "rover" linebacker when he played college football in Utah's 4-3 defense. "And to think I'm part of the Steelers' linebacker tradition. I'm loving it.

    "It's a process. They like to break you in and make sure you know what you're doing before you're able to start. There are a lot of things I have to work on. But every day I'm getting more confident with what I'm supposed to do."

    CHRIS CARTER

    Fifth-round pick, 2011

    Long before envisioning that he'd one day play for the Steelers, Chris Carter was a huge Troy Polamalu fan.

    As a high school star in southern California and later as a standout at Fresno State, Carter admired Polamalu so much that he wore jersey No. 43.

    "I just like the way he plays," Carter said of the Steelers' all-star strong safety.

    So far in his rookie season, the Steelers like the way Carter plays outside linebacker.

    "He's got a good motor and a lot of speed off the edge," said linebackers coach Keith Butler. "He has the ability to be relentless. That's part of his makeup."

    Because he's only 6-foot-1 and 248 pounds, many of the pre-draft publications believed Carter too small to play in the NFL. But the Steelers thought otherwise. They believe he's big enough, strong enough and certainly explosive enough.

    In time, Carter figures to get bigger and stronger through strength training, so the Steelers are confident he'll make the transition from college defensive end to outside ‘backer.

    Carter has a lot to learn. He's basically starting from scratch when it comes to pass coverage because he rarely dropped back into it at Fresno State. His forte was rushing the passer, and he was good enough at it that he totaled 19.5 sacks during college, including 11 as a senior when he was WAC defensive player of the year.

    "Even though I was a stand-up defensive end in college, I feel like I'm learning a new position," he said. "With all the different drops I have to do in pass coverage, it's a big transition. But at the same time, the Steelers are allowing me to use my abilities which got me here, and that's my pass rushing ability."

    In Thursday's preseason game, Carter played with the third-team defense. But at practice Saturday, he said the coaches moved him up with Worild's on the second team.

    "I'm not naïve," Carter said. "I know it won't happen overnight. It's going to take time. But I'm willing to put in the work. I have the perfect setup around me. My coaches and the linebackers already on this team will help me get there."

    http://www.timesonline.com/sports/lo...82f799e8e.html
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    Default Re: Backers to the future: Young Steelers LBs to watch

    More toys for LeBeau to play with is what has to be keeping him so young LB looks like ita will be stacked if these guys pan out.
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    Default Re: Backers to the future: Young Steelers LBs to watch

    I hope they can keep LBs Mario Harvey and Baraka Atkins on their PS.

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