The ensemble of defensive linemen on this year’s roster, is considered by many the deepest group the Steelers have had in years. With signing of one-time first round pick Tyson Alualu, the emergence of talented and versatile second-year nose tackle Javon Hargrave, the rising of defensive end Stephon Tuitt, and the invaluable leadership of defensive end Cameron Heyward; the Steelers have positioned themselves to have one of the top defensive line groups in the NFL. Part of this equation is a player whose contributions may not always appear on the stat sheet, but has risen within the ranks of the Steelers defense in the last seasons; defensive lineman L.T. Walton.
Walton was a sixth-round pick for the Steelers in 2015, and considering the probability of players picked in this round becoming roster players, Walton has certainly achieved more than many would have expected. Every year since his rookie season has been a gradual progression. In 2015, he played in 6 games and did not register any statistics. One year later, he played in 10 games, started in 4 and registered a combined 8 tackles and a pass deflection. His two most notable performance came in their biggest game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day, where he recorded a combined 3 tackles, and contributed heavily in stopping the run in what ended up being one of their most significant victories in recent memory.
In the Steelers preseason game against the Falcons, Walton started the game with the first-team defense and looked like a player that was not out of place. Walton was strong at the point of attack, demonstrated his strength and improved use of hands which was a noted weakness in his NFL Draft profile. In Saturday’s loss to the Colts, Walton didn’t register a tackle, but the depth he provides is something the team hasnt’ had in years.
Walton’s value to the team continues to increase as he continues to evolve as a defensive player. After a strong showing during training camp, there is no doubt that Walton is showing that he is indeed ready to take that next step in becoming a major contributor to the Steelers defense.