I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Steelers lack of depth, more like lack of quality starters, along the defensive line has been a problem in 2021.
That was especially the case during Pittsburgh’s three-game winless streak when the Lions, Chargers and Bengals (oh my) rushed for a combined 586 yards.
With Stephon Tuitt out indefinitely and Tyson Alualu on the shelf for the rest of the regular season, true depth pieces such as Isaiah Buggs, Carlos Davis, Henry Mondeaux and rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk were being forced to contribute at levels they either just weren’t ready for or plain just weren’t capable of.
If only the Steelers had a steady veteran presence to plug into the line as a starter; they did, actually. Chris Wormley, who they traded a 2021 fifth-round pick to the Ravens to acquire back in the spring of 2020. Wormley was brought in for depth more than anything, a player who was versatile and steady.
Nobody ever expected Wormley to be anything more than a solid backup, which was really a shame when both Tuitt and Alualu were lost.
Cam Heyward could only do so much, even if that so much amounted to a ton prior to Sunday’s matchup with the Ravens at Heinz Field.
With a potent ground game led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Steelers’ defense appeared to be ripe for the picking and the gauging, especially up the middle, where Pittsburgh’s defense seemed to be especially vulnerable to the run.
I’m not saying Wormley, who has been a full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2021, was solely responsible for limiting the Ravens to 107 rushing yards on Sunday, but he seemed to be doing a good job.
And while that part of Wormley’s performance wasn’t totally obvious to a layman such as myself, I can certainly spot 2.5 sacks when I see them. That’s right, that’s how many times Wormley, who came into Sunday’s action with 3.5 sacks on the season, took the always slippery Jackson to the Heinz Field turf.
Should we expect such a performance from Wormley every week from here on out? No, but it would be nice if he got on a bit of a roll and was among BTSC editor Jeff Hartman’s ‘winners’ on a more frequent basis down the stretch. That would mean Wormley is continuing to do his job, continuing to contribute to a defense that sorely needs some surprise candidates to step up and make important plays.
We know what T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Heyward can do. It would simply be wonderful if Wormley, 28, began to play the best football of his career.
Mike Tomlin’s “next man up” mantra is nice, if not totally realistic when it comes to replacing players of the pedigree of a Tuitt.
But Chris Wormley doesn’t have to be Stephon Tuitt. He just has to do a really good job in his absence even if he can’t duplicate what he did on Sunday against those Ravens.
If Wormley can do that, it would do wonders for helping the Steelers’ defense, still the strength of the team, get back to being just that over the final five weeks of the 2021 regular season.