There isn’t a position in football that has changed as much as linebacker in recent years. Teams have begun to move away from powerful, downhill run stuffers to a more hybrid, athletic defender who is equally adept when forced into coverage.
This is keenly felt in the AFC North, where so much of the business end of the season depends on establishing the run in testing conditions. AFC North linebackers have to be strong tacklers as well as uniquely athletic. It’s a position the four teams in the division still hold in high regard.
From the Ravens who had arguably one of the best-ever linebackers in Ray Lewis to the Steelers who boast the likes of Joey Porter in their past. Now, the AFC North has upper-echelon talents like Roquan Smith and Logan Wilson at the position, but who has the most robust group as a whole? Let's take a look.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Linebacker group: Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, Kwon Alexander, Tanner Muse, Nick Kwiatkoski, Mark Robinson
The Steelers enter the 2023 season, having rebuilt the linebacker corps completely. Former first-round selection Devin Bush left as a free agent, and Myles Jack only saw out a year of his two-year deal before being released.
Now, it is up to two incoming free agents to take over the position. Cole Holcomb has been a reliable ‘backer for the Commanders and brings a base level of efficiency. With him will be Elandon Roberts, who enjoyed five sacks last year for the Dolphins, but there are question marks outside of his pass-rushing ability.
In terms of depth, the recent signing of Kwon Alexander is a gamble due to his injury history, but he has the potential to be the best option going forward. Nick Kwiatkoski flashed for the Chicago Bears. However, he never returned to that level after signing a big deal for the Raiders. Converted safety Tanner Muse is untested but has impressed in a small sample size.
The question marks and lack of top-end talent at the position mean the Steelers land at the bottom of the division in this position group.