The Pittsburgh Steelers quickly realized they would need to add some depth along the defensive line this offseason. With that known, they brought in a new face via free agency, and overlooked the position in the 2017 NFL Draft. In fact, the defensive line remains mainly in tact from 2016, heading into the 2017 season.
It is now time to update the team’s depth chart along the defensive line, predict just who will make the team and what the stable of linemen will look like as the team prepares for the 2017 NFL season.
Nelson Adams (R)
Christian Brown (R)
Francis Kallon (R)
Similar to other depth chart breakdowns we’ve done since the draft wrapped up, the team won’t have that many tough decisions along the defensive line heading into 2017. There are a lot of names on the above depth chart, which means many of these players won’t be lasting to the team’s 53-man roster. Some will hope for a spot on the team’s practice squad, but the reality of the situation is many will try, but only a few will succeed.
Time to predict the players who will get a roster spot, and how many defensive linemen the Steelers will elect to keep on their 53-man regular season roster.
Before any discussion takes place regarding the defensive line, there are four players who are locks to make the final 53-man roster. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and free agent acquisition Tyson Alualu.
Other than those players? It is free game, and that includes returning players like Daniel McCullers. While several young players will try to make waves with their opportunity on the 90-man roster, L.T. Walton and Johnny Maxey both stepped up in a big way last season when their number was called in Heyward’s absence. However, you have to wonder how many defensive linemen the team will keep.
I think the team keeps at least two at each position, which would equate to a minimum of 6 roster spots, but the team could go to 7 if they felt it was necessary. With Heyward, Hargrave, Tuitt and Alualu already holding roster spots, it would leave two, maybe three, spots available. McCullers gets a spot being the backup nose tackle, and L.T. Walton certainly proved his worth in 2016. If the team is going to bring on another defensive lineman, I would suggest Maxey gets that job.
Heading into the 2017 offseason, defensive line depth was a huge need, but not one which required a big money acquisition. The team bolstered their depth by signing free agent Alualu, who played with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and there weren’t any other moves of note made.
While some fans think this wasn’t good enough, the depth chart of Heyward, Hargrave and Tuitt as starters, Alualu, Walton and McCullers as backups and the possibility of Maxey, or another lineman, being a rotational backup is an improvement over the 2016 team who relied on Ricardo Mathews has quality depth.
Whether you like it or not, the Steelers have upgraded their defensive line depth, and that was a major offseason objective for the black and gold.