With cap cuts coming, are the Steelers scouting a new middle linebacker at the combine?
As I wrote in one of our past prospect watches, the Steelers could draft a middle linebacker in this year’s draft. Lawrence Timmons is owed over $15 million and his production has slipped over the past few seasons.
One of the most decorated middle linebackers in this draft is Scooby Wright out of Arizona. This former two-star recruit burst on the national spotlight leading the Wildcats to Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2014. That year, Wright won the Chuck Bednarik, Vince Lombardi and Bronko Nagurski awards along with the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a consensus All-American.
Scooby’s sophomore season should go down as one of the best in the history of college football for a middle linebacker. He finished the 2014 with 164 total tackles (100 solo), 31 for loss, 15 sacks and 5 forced fumbles.
So why is he only considered a third or fourth round pick? With much hype surrounding Wright after his amazing 2014, he was limited to only three games in 2015 due to injuries.
Scooby would tear his left meniscus in Arizona’s season opener against Texas-San Antonio. Being the warrior that he is, Wright returned to the field three weeks later in a showdown with UCLA. He would make seven total tackles in the blowout loss, but suffered a foot sprain and missed the rest of the regular season.
Scooby returned for the Wildcat’s bowl game vs New Mexico, but there was speculation how functional the star linebacker would be. He made it clear early that the injuries had not slowed him down. Wright put on a highlight reel performance, stuffing the stat sheet with 15 total tackles, 3.5 for loss and 2 sacks. Arizona needed a great game from Wright as they barely won the game, which earned the junior linebacker defensive MVP of the game.
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In the mold of many linebackers in this draft, Wright is a tackle machine who plays with tremendous instinct and awareness. Despite concerns of durability issues, his 6 foot 246 lbs. frame is prototypical for most inside backers , though he does lack leg strength.
Wright shows athleticism at the position by running sideline to sideline to track down ball carriers. Scooby is not afraid to deliver huge hits while going after the ball and ripping or punching it out, leading to a fumble.
However, Wright has shown that he will sometimes over pursue plays leaving teammates out to dry. He was also limited in pass coverage as he was asked to blitz a lot in Arizona’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme.
A player like Wright with the athletic ability and football instincts at the linebacker position would be a great fit to the Steelers defense. Selecting Scooby could be a boom or bust proposition for the Black & Gold.
The Steelers are already dealing with their own china doll at middle linebacker (Ryan Shazier) and it would be a risky move to bring in another backer with durability issues. Still, Wright’s upside might be too good for the Steeler to pass up.