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Updating the Steelers defensive depth chart after the 2019 NFL Draft

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The Steelers added players to the defensive line, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker groups.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

After drafting Sutton Smith, Isaiah Buggs, and Ulysees Gilbert III on the third day of the 2019 NFL draft, the Steelers also added several undrafted free agents to fill out their 2019 roster. The projected depth chart for the defensive positions added via day three of the draft for the Steelers is as follows:

Defensive Line

  1. Cameron Heyward
  2. Stephon Tuitt
  3. Javon Hargrave
  4. Tyson Alualu
  5. Daniel McCullers
  6. Isaiah Buggs
  7. Lavon Hooks
  8. Conor Sheehy
  9. Winston Craig
  10. Casey Sayles
  11. Jay Hayes
  12. Chris Nelson

It would take an awful lot to unseat any of the starters along the defensive line. Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt , and Javon Hargrave are locked in as the three D-line positions in base defense. Hargrave also comes into the rotation in sub-package football as well as Tyson Alualu.

Daniel McCullers has managed to continue to hold on to the back-up nose tackle position, although newly drafted Isaiah Buggs could use his position flexibility to grab the roster spot away. Another player who is fighting for a spot is Levon Hooks who has spent two years on the Steelers practice squad and many feel he is ready to move up to the 53.

To round out the rest of the depth chart, Conor Sheehy comes in as a collegiate teammate of T.J. Watt who was not on any team’s practice squad last season. Winston Craig and Casey Sayles both come to the Steelers via the AAF. The Steelers also added two UFA’s after the draft with Jay Hayes (Georgia) and Chris Nelson (Texas). All the guys on the bottom five of this list have a long road to make the team, but are not beyond the realm of possibility.

Outside Linebacker

  1. T.J. Watt
  2. Bud Dupree
  3. Anthony Chickillo
  4. Ola Adeniyi
  5. Sutton Smith
  6. Keon Adams
  7. J.T. Jones

The top three of this list has not changed from 2018, as they were the only ones who logged any kind of significant snaps for the Steelers. T.J. Watt is coming off of a Pro Bowl season and Bud Dupree is going into the fifth year of his rookie deal. Anthony Chickillo was re-signed upon hitting the free-agent market this past off-season.

Ola Adeniyi spent the majority of 2018 on injured reserve, but did join the 53 man roster late in the season and dressed for one game. Keon Adams spent 2018 on the Steelers practice squad after being on IR the season before. Newly drafted Sutton Smith will have every opportunity to earn a spot on the depth chart at both outside linebacker and inside linebacker if necessary. Most importantly, Smith can earn his way onto the 53-man roster by impressing on special teams units. J.T. Jones rounds out the depth chart after signing with the Steelers following his time with the AAF.

Inside Linebacker

  1. Vince Williams
  2. Mark Barron
  3. Devin Bush
  4. Tyler Matakevich
  5. Ulysees Gilbert III
  6. Robert Spillane
  7. Tegray Scales
  8. Ryan Shazier (PUP)

Since drafting Devin Bush in the first round of the NFL draft this past weekend; this position group has undergone even more change. The additional draft pick of Ulysees Gilbert III in the sixth round cemented the fate of Jon Bostic who was subsequently released. The Steelers also officially placed Ryan Shazier on the Physically Unable to Perform list, so he no longer counts against the 90-man roster.

It’s safe to say the first three names on this list are cemented at the top with the only question being the order. Vince Williams will begin in the top spot since he was the only player of the three on the Steelers 2018 roster. But Williams could even find himself at number three by the time the regular season rolls around. Devin Bush will start off just outside of the starting lineup, but after trading up in the top 10 to select him, many expect him to see the field regularly by Week 1. Mark Barron should see action regardless, whether starting in base defense or as the dime linebacker.

Tyler Matakevich’s chances of making the roster improved with a release of Bostic, although Gilbert could make the 53-man squad either beside or ahead of him. As mentioned after the day-one pick of Bush, Spillane and Scales come to the Steelers from various practice squads and are longshots to make the roster. Outside linebacker Sutton Smith could also come in to play in this position group if the Steelers feel he is better suited to play inside rather than outside. And as is often the case with either linebacker position, value on special teams can help earn a roster spot just as much as defensive play.