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Steelers 2020 Free Agent Market Watch: The Defensive Tackles

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the interior defensive linemen.

NFL: DEC 22 Steelers at Jets Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the team is burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options. It’s like the lyric in the Aerosmith gem, What It Takes...”Tell me what it takes to let you go. Tell me how the pain’s supposed to go. Tell me how it is that you can sleep the night without thinking you lost ev’rything that was good in your life to the toss of the dice? Tell me what it takes to let you go, yeah.”

The Steelers have both the luxury and and issue of having quite alot of high-priced talent on the defensive line. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt got paid in recent seasons, now it’s Javon Hargrave’s turn. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of room for the UFA NT. The Steelers would like to sign their Hargrave, but that could be a problem with the market for the talented J-Wobble most certain to be very high. If they sign him, they would be ignoring other pressing priorities. Letting the fifth-year man from South Carolina State go might be easier due to the presence of Tyson Alualu and Isaiah Buggs. If they do add, here is the list of available free agents should a Steel City Money Miracle occur.

Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs

Age 25, 6’6”/310 lbs.

2019 Stats: 13 games, 36 tackles, 9 sacks, 7 hurries, 11 QB knockdowns

No. 6 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 84.9 (High Quality), Run Defense 73.6 (Above Average), Pass Rush 89.5 (Elite)

Just shy of Aaron Donald territory, Jones is in the conversation of dominance among Defensive Tackles. The Super Bowl Champ is stout against the run and elite when rushing the passer. Jones is young and could break the bank.

Javon Hargrave – Pittsburgh Steelers

Age 27, 6’2”/305 lbs.

2019 Stats: 16 games, 60 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 8 hurries, 2 QB knockdowns

No. 8 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 83.4 (High Quality), Run Defense 77.2 (Above Average), Pass Rush 76.8 (Above Average)

The Steelers would love to keep Hargrave who has been solid from the get-go for him. But there isn’t enough green to go around and he’s best to go to greener pastures. JWobble is an amazing run stuffer that knows how to get to the passer as well. Plus, his versatility allows him to not be pigeonholed as a NT. The Gravedigger can play anywhere in the trenches. Hopefully, not in the AFC North.

Arik Armstead - San Francisco 49ers

Age 26, 6’7”/290 lbs.

2019 Stats: 16 games, 54 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 17 hurries, 6 QB knockdowns

No. 6 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 89.8 (Elite), Run Defense 87.5 (Elite), Pass Rush 75.6 (High Quality)

Pretty much a disappointment in his first few seasons as a professional, Armstead blossomed and was phenomenal for the NFC Champs in 2020. Was he just playing for a contract or did he finally come into his own? Nevertheless, he grades out at a high level with an all-around game and skill set.

D.J. Reader - Houston Texans

Age 27, 6’3”/347 lbs.

2019 Stats: 15 games, 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 hurries, 7 QB knockdowns

No. 7 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 86.7 (Elite), Run Defense 83.3 (High Quality), Pass Rush 75.4 (Above Average)

Not the most recognizable of names in the league, but Reader could be a NFL household name soon. The former fifth-rounder From Clemson is a brick wall against the run and pretty solid getting to the passer. One of the best Nose Tackles in the league, Reader is only 25 and has a solid career and a big payday ahead of him. The Texans’ NT should be valuable to a 3-4 employing team.

Michael Pierce - Baltimore Ravens

Age 27, 6’0”/345 lbs.

2019 Stats: 14 games, 35 tackles, .5 sacks, 0 Forced Fumbles, 1 hurry, 1 QB knockdown

No. 45 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 69.2 (Above Average), Run Defense 70.6 (Above Average), Pass Rush 63.3 (Average)

Pierce is a enormous plug in the front line of the Raven defense and he’s always been a presence against the Steelers. However, the big man doesn’t get to the quarterback very much at all. But teams wanting a stout run stuffer, will get a good one in Pierce. He needs to have a healthier year than he did in 2019 though. He’d make a good replacement for Hargrave, but I doubt the 345-pounder will be affordable.

Other Notable Free Agent Defensive Tackles:

Leonard Williams - New York Giants

Ndamunkong Suh - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A’Shawn Robinson - Detroit Lions

Snacks Williams - Detroit Lions

Timmy Jernigan - Philadelphia Eagles

Quinton Jefferson - Seattle Seahawks

Michael Brockers - Los Angeles Rams

Andrew Billings - Cincinnati Bengals

Christian Covington - Dallas Cowboys

Shelby Harris - Denver Broncos

Mike Daniels - Detroit Lions

Jonathan Hankins - Las Vegas Raiders


Regardless of affordability, what Free Agent Defensive Tackle would you like the Steelers to sign in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Chris Jones
    (74 votes)
  • 38%
    Javon Hargrave
    (145 votes)
  • 6%
    Arik Armstead
    (25 votes)
  • 11%
    D.J. Reader
    (42 votes)
  • 2%
    Michael Pierce
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    Leonard Williams
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    A’Shawn Robinson
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    Ndamukong Suh
    (14 votes)
  • 1%
    Snacks Williams
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Timmy Jernigan
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Michael Brockers
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Quinton Robinson
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Andrew Billings
    (27 votes)
  • 0%
    Christian Covington
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Jonathan Hankins
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Mike Daniels
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Shelby Harris
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
379 votes total Vote Now