With the recent signing of Clifton Geathers to a one-year contract, it is time to take an updated look at the Pittsburgh Steelers' depth chart at the defensive end position heading into the 2015 NFL Draft on April 30th.
First and foremost, Cameron Heyward is more than just the best defensive end they have on their roster, but quite possibly the best defender on the team. Heyward has emerged as the total package in terms of playing the run, controlling the line of scrimmage and being able to put pressure on the quarterback. Heyward tied for the team lead in sacks in 2014 with 7.5, and had 5.0 sacks in 2013. The defense seems to revolve around Heyward, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Next to Heyward is second year pro Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame. Tuitt was thrown into the fire as a rookie, and at times was pushed around and struggled to handle the bigger and more physical offensive guards and tackles in the NFL. Nonetheless, Tuitt settled in and became a play maker by season's end. Tuitt's ultimate highlight from 2014 was a hustle play made against the Kansas City Chiefs where he ran down Jamaal Charles forcing a costly fumble which the Steelers recovered.
To the dismay of many fans, Cam Thomas remains on the Steelers' roster heading into 2015. To say Thomas had a poor 2014 campaign is an understatement, but the team seems determined to keep him in the fold for at least another season unless he is beaten out in training camp by someone else. Thomas does have the versatility to play both NT and DE, which could be a large reason for keeping him around.
With the signing Wendesday, Clifton Geathers will remain in Pittsburgh for another season. The journeyman DE has something to prove, and seems willing to work to give himself a chance at playing time. In 2014 he was brought on as a free agent with the Steelers, but failed to dress for the final 4 regular season games as well as the lone playoff game last year. Geathers most memorable moment was causing a practice scuffle with Maurkice Pouncey and other offensive lineman for practicing too hard late in the season. Maybe Geathers can bring a fire to the defense which at times last year looked more aloof than stellar.
Outside of those players, there will be steady competition to make the roster at DE. Matt Conrath, 3rd year pro from Virginia is on the team's roster heading into 2015 along with Ethan Hemer, a second year player who spent the 2014 season on the team's practice squad. Joe Kruger and Daniel McCullers are both listed as having the versatility to play any position along the defensive line, but Kruger seems more equipped to play end while McCullers looks to be groomed to be the team's next nose tackle.
The Steelers very well could look at bolstering this depth chart through the upcoming draft, and doing so could help provide quality depth at a position which lost it's most tenured player in Brett Keisel this offseason.