The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, but with the 2021 NFL Draft over the attention now turns to the regular season. There are steps along the way, mandatory minicamp, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp, but the position battles which will take shape throughout the offseason are worth discussion.
Sure, things could change between now and the start of training camp. Injuries, acquisitions and players emerging can alter the outcome of these battles, but there will be several key battles taking place. In this series, myself and Dave Schofield will be giving our analysis and prediction for each training camp battle which will unfold at some point this offseason.
Today we take a look at a position/battle for the Steelers’ defense. This will be a little different than previous battle breakdowns. Why? Because here we aren’t talking about who will make the team, but who won’t. There are only so many spots along the defensive line, and when you factor in Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley, you have to wonder how many they will keep? So, the battle is about who draws the short end of the stick between Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis.
Who wins the battle? Dave and I give our predictions below, but be sure to let us know what you think in the poll below, and be sure to explain your vote in the comment section!
Analysis: The Steelers are very deep along the defensive line, and when the team traded up into the 5th round of the 2021 NFL Draft to take Isaiahh Loudermilk out of Wisconsin it made a deep depth chart burst at the seams. In other words, you can’t keep everyone. Some might look at this and think it is an easy decision, but I disagree. I think the Steelers like each one of these players for different reasons, and who they keep/discard will be based on their performance this preseason.
Prediction: There are fans who think Loudermilk will get cut, but I think he has one of the safest spots on the team. If the Steelers were to cut Loudermilk, think how bad it would look on the organization. You trade away a 4th round 2022 pick for a player who doesn’t make the team? Wouldn’t be a good look. With that said, I know the Steelers also value the players they draft. The last variable here is how many defensive linemen will they carry on their active roster? Last season the Steelers carried seven linemen for the majority of the season, so when you count players like Heyward, Tuitt, Wormley and Alualu, it leaves just three more spots. In this case, and by my aforementioned criteria, it would leave Mondeaux as the odd man out. As an aside, I would expect Louermilk to make the team, but only to dress on game day if an injury arises.
Analysis: Jeff is exactly right about Loudermilk. You can’t trade up and give up a fourth-round pick in 2022 and simply not keep the player to try to give them a chance to develop. There could be two spots remaining after him, but there may only be just one.
Prediction: Ultimately, if there’s only one position available after Loudermilk, I give the edge to Carlos Davis as he was the one who actually saw snaps in the postseason. While Mondeaux brings the special teams element, I don’t know if that’s enough to give him the spot. And as for Isaiah Buggs, it wouldn’t be a shock to have a sixth-round pick only last two seasons with their original team. If Davis does win the battle, both the other players would be practice squad candidates if the Steelers can get them there.
Who will be the player to get cut along the defensive line?
This poll is closed