Everyone knows the famed blitzing defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers depends on the linebackers. With the unit aging in some bad spots, the time may have come for a chance. Would James Laurinaitis of the St. Louis Rams draw some interest?
James Harrison could follow James Farrior out after the 2012 season
As good as the Steelers defense has stayed under Hall of Fame coordinator Dick LeBeau, it's impossible for a team to fight time. Most of the stars who made that defense great are getting older and slower. Pittsburgh built its two championship banners in 2005 and 2008 on great defense and key plays from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. At the heart of the matter is the linebackers. With LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons in place the front office has felt comfortable releasing longtime veteran James Farrior. Some think this puts teammate and league headache James Harrison on notice. The team has loads of contracts to deal with next offseason and given his recent string of injuries he might not live up to his price anymore. The question is if they do let him walk in 2013 who do they find to replace him. The typical Pittsburgh Steelers path is sliding in a young draft pick but they might find great value if they stop to look in free agency first.
Rams have still not locked up Laurinaitis or Chris Long for the future
The St. Louis Rams sit in the middle of a transformation. No one is sure yet what the team will change into. What they do know is two of its most reliable players may not stay there to find out. Defensive end Chris Long and inside linebacker James Laurinaitis both could reach the free agent market next season. Most experts think the two of them are Pro Bowl caliber talents and will just start entering their primes when the 2012 season ends. St. Louis can't afford to let them go but only have one franchise tag to use if they each decide to test the market. Since Long is one of the few on the roster who creates constant pressure on quarterbacks, logic says the Rams will focus on him. This may leave the 25-year-old Laurinaitis to shop for another team. While the market for linebackers has gone down in recent years, teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh could have major interest in the young middle linebacker. The Steelers could bring him in to man the middle of their defense next to Timmons and Woodley and allow them to focus on their weakened secondary in the draft.
The St. Louis Rams should and will want to keep James Laurinaitis. On the other hand, the Steelers have good reasons to go get him with James Farrior gone and James Harrison possibly on his way out. It all depends on how free agency falls.