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The Pittsburgh Steelers season ended earlier than anyone could have expected and despite an 11-0 start, the team crumbled down the stretch and might have missed out on their last, best chance for a Super Bowl for a long time. Here is our look back at each positional until in our own version of the exit interviews.
Next up, we have the linebackers.
Going into the 2020 season, the Steelers had three of four starting linebackers as former first-round picks. This puts an awful lot of pressure on a group to perform. And through the first six games of the season, they did just that.
Then the injuries started to come. First the Steelers lost inside linebacker Devin Bush for the season to a knee injury. Then the Steelers lost Bush’s replacement Robert Spillane when he went on IR with an injury of his own.
Sticking with the inside linebackers, fellow starter Vince Williams was lost for two games on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Overall, this group was in shambles for the second half of the season even using converted safety Marcus Allen as a starting linebacker.
On the outside things were better. For most of the season. T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree formed the most formidable pass-rushing tandem in the league. Their ability to terrorize quarterbacks was unmatched in the league. Unfortunately, the injury bug got Dupree 12 games in and this group limped through the final four games of the season.
Watt still went on to have a season worthy of Defensive Player of the Year as he led the league in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. Even Dupree was on pace for an All-Pro campaign prior to his injury with eight sacks in 11 games.
Overall, this group came in with huge expectations but once the injuries started to pile up, there was no way they could meet them. The heavy investments at other positions made depth non-existent and playing as many as three reserves in the starting lineup the group disappointed.
Next season promises the return of Bush but it’s unlikely Dupree comes back as he heads into free agency. Is Alex Highsmith the answer opposite Watt and will Pittsburgh upgrade Williams’ spot on the inside? These are questions the team must answer in the coming months.