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Breaking down the Defensive and Special Teams Depth Chart: Week 1 Steelers vs. Browns

Our previous article focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive depth chart — this one breaks down the defense and special teams.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers firmed up their final defensive and special teams depth charts with the cuts on Saturday — or at least it would seem so. The Steelers are carrying three outside linebackers — fewer than the normal four or five to begin the season. But the six safeties is a polar opposite, as the safety position hasn’t previously been filled with six players, typically carrying four or five.

Cam Heyward restructured his contract, freeing up more than $5 million. At the time of this writing, the Steelers hadn’t made any roster movies to better shore up the OLB position, but such a move would hardly be surprising.

BTSC readers will notice that the roster ends up with 54 players. This is due to Le’Veon Bell’s anticipated, eventual return to the team.

DT 28/53

Cameron Heyward: The 12 sacks were the most in his career and his two forced fumbles doubled his career totals in 2017. Teams will have to double-team him to drop the sack totals.

L.T. Walton: Walton took part in 144 snaps while generating two sacks in 2017. Hopefully, a lack of injuries to the starters will drop his snap totals.

NT 30/53

Javon Hargrave: Steelers fans are OK with him generating two sacks but he has to become more effective in the run game and shore up the leaky middle of the defense.

Dan McCullers: Shade Tree keeps hanging around the Steelers, but look for him to be a weekly inactive, who will be hard pressed to better his 13 snaps last year on defense.

DE 32/53

Stephon Tuitt: A torn bicep cost Tuitt his effectiveness in 2017 — can he remain healthy and live up to his massive contract while taking some pressure off of Heyward?

Tyson Alualu: Could Pittsburgh see him on the field more and run more 4-3 defense? The man has talent that needs to see the field more, and the Steelers need to get creative for that to happen.

LOLB 34/53

Bud Dupree: This will be either the last hurrah for Dupree or the path to $9.2 million. Even after six sacks in 2017, he still graded out at No. 44 of 46 qualifiers at his position by PFF.

Anthony Chickillo: Chick is not athletic nor is he a game changer but he’s a prototypical backup OLB who makes his mark on special teams. (He led the Steelers in special teams snaps in 2017 with 317.) Shockingly thin at OLB.

LILB 37/53

Jon Bostic: Bostic struggled with communication issues during the preseason but he also flashed his solid run-stopping ability that led PFF to rank him 12th last season.

L. J. Fort: If the ball isn’t being kicked, Steelers fans don’t want to see him on the field.

Matthew Thomas: A gifted athlete who struggles with technique and the mental side of the game, he shined against many a camp body in the preseason. His off-field issues were years ago and were not the reason he went undrafted.

RILB 39/53

Vince Williams: It’s baffling why he was chosen to wear the green dot. A liability in coverage and mediocre run defender due to struggles to shed blocks. His main role will be to rush the passer. Tomlin will have him in on dime defense calling the plays and setting alignment? (The summer went by too fast to tear into him and show how Ryan Shazier covered up his flaws exposed by Sean Spence.)

Tyler Matakevich: Steeler fans are imploring VW and Bostic to stay healthy as Dirty Red gave his best Sean Spence impersonation during preseason.

ROLB 40/53

T.J. Watt: BTSC fans want you to emulate your brother — not in games missed but in sack totals. Will the switching of sides and practice time missed stunt his progression?

Anthony Chickillo: Chick has the versatility to play both outside backer positions.

LCB 42/53

Joe Haden: Average and injury-prone players should not be paid top-10 player money at any position. If Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, Mike Evans, and AJ Green beatdown the best corners in the league — what do they do to average ones? Haden’s 2018 dictates if the Steelers will need to burn a first-round pick on the cornerback position in 2019.

Mike Hilton: This is the baffling part of the Steelers depth chart. I can’t believe Hilton would move out of his slot cornerback position to fill in on the outside. (Not counted towards the 53-man roster due to not being his true depth chart position.)

Coty Sensabaugh: Sensabaugh was horrific during the 2017 season but shined during training camp and preseason. He’s the first man up again if Burns or (when) Haden suffers an injury.

RCB 44/53

Artie Burns: How many rookies enter the NFL draft at 23? Plenty. How many are entering their third season as an NFL starter at the same age? Often maligned by BTSC commenters for the big plays he surrenders, fans ignore the many games where he does not.

Cameron Sutton: Sutton made one spot start in 2017 to go along with seeing a modest amount of snaps during two other games. His snaps were not effective which is clear with zero pass breakups while surrendering a touchdown to the New England Patriots.

Slot CB 45/53

Mike Hilton: The former undrafted rookie free agent shone in 2017 and passed the eye test along with the passer rating of 61.1 which he surrendered.

Cameron Sutton: Sutton was utilized out of the slot extensively during preseason. The use suggests that the Steelers view him more as a slot CB than an outside corner.

FS 48/53

Sean Davis: The third year safety struggled with his strong safety duties the past two seasons — will moving him to free safety see his tackling and attack angle woes dissipate which has led to his poor tackling?

Nat Behre: Behre was released only to be resigned after the Steelers place Ola Adeniyi on injured reserve. Steeler fans were not happy with his play when he was turned around and beaten by a Green Bay Packers wideout. Fans need to realize that he will not see playing time except for special teams. Is he the first man off the bench at free safety? Doubtful.

Marcus Allen: Reports out of training camp had him performing poorly, and that was backed up by a lackluster preseason. Game day inactive and possibly first man released if the team needs to open up a roster spot. More potential than proven product.

SS 51/53

Morgan Burnett: It’s surprising that the former Green Bay Packer will not be the defensive signal caller as it appears the Steelers would rather hand those duties to an ILB. Burnett is a box safety that will add excellent run support while providing adequate coverage. Do not expect too much but he will be an improvement to the secondary.

Terrell Edmunds: Steeler Nation saw flashes of why Edmunds was a first round selection but fans were also reminded why draftniks did not have that high a draft grade on him. He will not challenge for a starting position this year but what will his use be in sub-packages? (Dollar package bracketing Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce with Burnett out of the question?)

Jordan Dangerfield: Dangerfield came into the league in 2014 but has only seen game action during the 2016 season with two starts while appearing in 12 others. He will see extensive action on special teams if active on game days.

Special Teams 54/53


Jordan Berry: With no real competition -- this is not a surprise. His guaranteed salary would make him a tough cut before the season. The most overpaid player on the roster.


Chris Boswell: Boz had four game-winning field goals in 2017 to go along with the most field goals made in the regular season and total points scored in Steeler history. How many heart-wrenching game winners will he be called upon in 2018?

Long snapper

Kameron Canaday: Steeler fans did not notice him on game day last year — that is a good thing.


Jordan Berry


Ryan Switzer: Steelers Nation is cheering on the addition of Switzer onto the team since he adds a true return specialist to the team.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: JuJu was effective on kickoffs last year but, with the addition of Switzer, he will play second fiddle.

Artie Burns: He does?


Ryan Switzer: Steelers fans breathe a sigh of relief not to have AB returning punts. No reason to have the best wideout in the NFL returning punts.

Antonio Brown: AB has not wanted to return punts for several years and that has shown with the lack of aggression and dwindling stats while fielding punts. Switzer brings that aggression back.

Cameron Sutton: Tomlin doesn’t allow defensive players to return punts and has zero patience when a returner fumbles. (See Eli Rogers benching in 2017.) Sutton coughed the ball up during a hard legit hit and would only be used in case of a Switzer injury or meltdown. might be the official site of the Pittsburgh Steelers but the depth chart has to be taken with a grain of salt. It is inaccurate, misleading and incomplete. Why does the depth chart ignore the all-important slot cornerback position which is utilized nearly 30% of all defensive snaps? Sutton did not play RCB last year, but is he the direct backup?

The depth chart is set for now but is a fluid situation to monitor in the days to come. Roster moves due to injury, poor performance, or team needs will ensure the depth chart as it appears now will not be the same in January.


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