Cam Thomas projected to start at defensive end but questions of how long that's meant to last surface

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Thomas, a career nose tackle, was brought in to play the 5-technique in the Steelers' defense for at least the 2014 season. That doesn't eliminate the notion the Steelers will look to address the defensive end position in the draft.

Leading into the 2004 draft there was talk about the Steelers having quarterback Tommy Maddox, and with him, they wouldn't need to invest in a quarterback in that draft.

Understatement of the Year: the league has changed a bit since then.

The Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger in that draft, and while he was the third quarterback on the team's depth chart to start the year, injuries to both Charlie Batch and Maddox thrust him into the spotlight.

Drawing an admitted weak parallel to that situation, the Steelers signed veteran defensive lineman Cam Thomas to a two-year deal this offseason. The expectation is Thomas, a career nose tackle, will play defensive end for the Steelers this year. If he performs well, he'll play his final year at $2 million, receive an extension or be released, saving the team that $2 million roster salary against the 2015 cap.

Simply put, his contract suggests he's a stop-gap player. The team didn't invest in him long-term. The question, with the draft 11 days away, is whether the Steelers will look for a replacement for Thomas in the long-run with an early round selection.

Defensive line is not the deepest position in this draft, but 3-4 defensive ends are not always found in the first rounds anyway. Considering the depth at the position (there really isn't any proven commodity, just the hope for the development of 2013 additions Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams), it's easy to see the Steelers wanting to bolster the future starting and utility roles along the line.

Considering Thomas's experience playing nose tackle, it'd be ideal if the team found another 5-technique they could feel comfortable with and allow Thomas to play both nose and end, a la Al Woods last season.

It's possible Williams or Arnfelt can be that kind of player, but they don't have a way to properly evaluate either player (Williams spent his rookie season on injured reserve and Arnfelt only only saw practice squad duties and a spattering of game activity in 2013) before the draft, they'll have to make a decision based on the little information, relatively speaking, they do have.

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