The Pittsburgh Steelers finally cracked free agency by adding Jon Bostic from the Indianapolis Colts. With that in mind, who better to understand the nitty gritty from than our very own managing editor and Colts expert Ben Pfeifer. We asked Pfeiffer five questions about his teams former starting inside linebacker, and translated what he said into the Steelers fans point of view.

Q: Were you surprised the Colts did not pursue Bostic further after just one season?

BP: I was not very surprised that the Colts did not resign Bostic. At 26, Bostic at this point is a serviceable linebacker, and the Colts looked at him as nothing more than a stopgap last year. The Colts’ linebacking play as a whole last year was atrocious, and the Colts’ will look to get younger and more athletic at the position this season.

Steelers fan takeaway: He is a one year rental with the potential to be a depth player. At 26 and being serviceable, he is still a better bet than anything the team currently has on the roster. Still, to bet on his immense upside is also foolish.

Q: Would you say his past injury list had to do with the team moving on from him?

BP: Injuries definitely could have been one of the factors in the Colts’ not resigning Bostic. He is nothing more than a solid starter, and Ballard may not have believed it was worth bringing him back for the chance he would re-injure himself. Given that the Colts may have been the most injured team in the NFL last season, it makes sense that the Colts would want to get away from injuries as much as possible.
Steelers takeaway: This likely is why the team went after him. They got a discount as most teams shy away from the player hurt in four of his first five seasons. The team will absolutely have to continue to address this position, because betting on his health is not a smart play.

Q: At least for the short term, Bostic will have to step into Ryan Shazier‘s role. The biggest loss last season showed to be his leadership and ability to call plays and get the defense aligned. Is Bostic a player with those qualities?

BP: Bostic played the role of the lead linebacker; the QB of the defense for the Colts’ last defense. Although he is nowhere near the caliber of Shazier, mentally or physically, Bostic could be decent as a lead linebacker. If anything, he will be a solid veteran presence for young Steeler Linebackers such as T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.
Steelers takeaway: Bostic can come in immediately and call plays. He can help ease a rookie into that role as well. Being a solid veteran presence, as he mentioned is absolutely the biggest thing that would be missing when a leader in the locker room like Shazier is taken away.

Q: What are your thoughts on him in coverage, especially against tight ends?

BP: Coverage is not one of Bostic’s strengths. One of the reasons the Colts didn’t resign him, I believe, was his lack of athleticism. Bostic struggles in man coverage mightily and is inconsistent in zone coverage. He got better towards the end of the year, but still is nothing special, and nowhere near Shazier. Bostic may be able to stick with slower blocking tight ends but will get exposed against more athletic tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

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Steelers takeaway: The film we saw completely agreed. In zone, he can take away the underneath in a bracket against tight ends. The rest is going to be an issue. His lack of athleticism combined with he injury concerns leave an expiration date on his starting playing time.

Q: On Pittsburgh or elsewhere, over the next five seasons do you see Bostic as a starter or depth player?

BP: If there was a word I would use to describe Bostic, it would be average. He could be a solid placeholder for the Steelers until Shazier returns in a few seasons, or if they get someone else at that position. Bostic is a low to mid-tier starter in the NFL but would be a solid depth player and veteran presence on any NFL team.
Steelers takeaway : That is exactly what the Steelers signed up for. He can start, and he is not well below average. He could help bring a young player along, and then the team can either try to bring him back as depth for the long term, or let him be a bridge linebacker again on the market in 2020. It tends to work out for both sides. If the team were to keep him as a third or fourth option into his later years, it does not sound like a bad option.

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