Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is not known for making a lot of big-splash trades as a key facet of building his team.
But for the second year in a row, an in-season trade to replace an injured player might have been a crucial move.
After Sean Davis was lost for the 2019 season to an injury, Colbert made headlines by trading a first-round pick for Miami safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has gone one to become one of the most impactful players in the Pittsburgh defense, currently No. 1 in the league.
This season, it was inside linebacker Devin Bush who was lost to injury, and it was a less splashy trade to acquire Avery Williamson from the New York Jets, while exchanging a fifth-round pick for a seventh-rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The price paid — a drop of at very most 90 spots, and more likely closer to 60 — will have been well worth it, as the Steelers inside linebacker depth has melted around Williamson to the point that he’s now the team’s unquestioned No. 1 at the position entering Sunday’s crucial AFC matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
“It seems someone was really timely making that trade,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said on Thursday. “You know what I’m saying? You never know. You never know how injuries are going to affect you or what’s going on with COVID. Those situations this year have been a little tougher for us. We have to be, as Mike [Tomlin] says, light on our feet and be able to adjust and make adjustments and stuff like that. That’s the biggest thing for us.”
Backup Ulysees Gilbert III went on the injured reserve list with a back injury two days after Williamson came aboard. Into the void went special teams ace Robert Spillane, who filled in extremely well until he suffered a knee injury on Monday night.
Williamson replaced him in the game against Washington, alongside Vince Williams, and that was the expected starting duo for this week’s game, until Williams was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday.
That means it will likely be Williamson and Marcus Allen starting at inside linebacker in Buffalo. When the 2020 season started, one of them was a Jet and the other was a safety.
“Mick [Robert Spillane] does a good job, really comes in and does a good job and then Mick gets hurt, and we have to put somebody else in there,” Butler said. “It’s time for us to step up, backups and stuff like that. If we can do that, we will be alright.”
Report: Steelers Interview Former Packers OL Coach James Campen
The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly interviewing veteran offensive line coach James Campen for their vacancy at the same position, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.
Campen is most known for his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, where he served as the club’s offensive line coach from 2007 to 2018. He additionally served as Green Bay’s run game coordinator in 2018, and won Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers in 2012.
He was also the associate head coach and offensive line coach under Freddie Kitchens with the Cleveland Browns in 2019.
Campen was most recently the offensive line coach for the Los Angeles Chargers last season under former head coach Anthony Lynn, but was not retain when Lynn was fired.
The Steelers are looking to fill the vacancy left by former offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who, along with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, did not have his contract renewed following the 2020 season.
Pittsburgh officially announced the promotion of quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator on Monday, even though reports indicated head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to first hire the team’s next offensive line coach.
Campen is just the second reported candidate the Steelers have interviewed for the opening. They also reportedly spoke to Detroit offensive line coach Hank Fraley, who has since been retained by new Lions head coach Dan Campbell.
The Steelers’ next offensive line coach will have their hands full from the jump, as they will be tasked with righting an aging unit that produced the league’s worst rushing attack in 2020.
Report: Former Steelers OL Coach Shaun Sarrett Joining LA Chargers
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett is reportedly joining the Los Angeles Chargers as their assistant offensive line coach, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Sarrett, along with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, did not have his contract renewed by Pittsburgh following the 2020 season.
Lackluster play along the offensive line was one of the Steelers’ greatest obstacles in 2020, as the team finished with the league’s worst rushing offense averaging an abysmal 3.6 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh did protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger well, but he rarely faced pressure with the Steelers’ quick-strike passing game, likely by design given the offensive line’s limitations.
Sarrett spent the last nine season in Pittsburgh, taking over for his mentor Mike Munchak as offensive line coach in 2019. Prior, he had served as an offensive assistant (2012-17) and assistant offensive line coach (2018).
The Steelers have reportedly interviewed a pair of candidates to replace Sarrett thus far, most recently speaking with former long-time Green Bay Packers offensive line coach James Campen on Wednesday.
Bud Dupree ‘Ahead of Schedule’ in Rehab from Torn ACL
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football on Wednesday, and shared encouraging news regarding his rehab from the torn ACL that ended his 2020 season.
“I’m feeling great right now,” Dupree said. “I’m ahead of schedule in rehab. It’s a great thing as always, it’s a blessing.”
He recently shared a video of him walking with a brace on Instagram. Dupree also said he expects to be ready for training camp, whether that is in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.
“I’m on track. And I’m going to be ready for camp. It’s a blessing to take the small things from a big injury like there was, and just know that I’m still able to perform next season.”
Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles in eleven games.
Dupree, 27, is set to hit free agency this offseason after playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid him $15.828 million. As crucial as he has been to the team’s success defensively in recent years, it is unlikely the Steelers will be able to resign him given their drastic cap situation.
Still, plenty of clubs will be vying for Dupree’s services in just a few months, and the encouraging injury news will only increase his value on the open market.