A Look At The Steelers Options For Defensive Line Help
It is expected that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will announce on Tuesday that left defensive end Aaron Smith will be lost for the season with torn triceps and thus the Steelers will place hin on injured reserve and need to sign one or even perhaps two defensive ends to the roster depending on the health of Brett Keisel. Following the win in Miami, the Steelers have only four healthy defensive linemen on the 53 man roster in the form of Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke, Ziggy Hood and Nick Eason. They also have a healthy Steve McLendon and Al Woods on the practice squad.
Hampton and Hoke have both missed time with injuries this season and reportedly Hood has been battling a bad ankle, so it might be smart to bring in two instead of one. McLendon has seen most of his time at nose tackle and tackle, so if he his activated from the practice squad, Hoke may be asked to back up or rotate in at left defensive end behind the new starter, Hood. Hoke has gotten several snaps there mostly in the nickel this year, but is however a better nose tackle than end in my opinion. Woods likely is not ready and really is just a raw project for defensive line coach John Mitchell. I would be surprised if he is signed to the active roster.
Outside of the players actually on the roster and practice squad, the Steelers could look at bringing back Sunny Harris. Harris was released last week by the Buffalo Bills from their practice squad and currently a free agent. Harris mostly played right defensive end behind Eason in the preseason for the Steelers before his release. Rookie draft pick Doug Worthington is also out on the streets, but was not impressive during camp by most reports and looked very average late in preseason games where most of his work came at left defensive end.
Some veterans out there are our good friend Travis Kirschke as well as Charles Grant. Kirschke might know the system, but I worry about how long he has been away. Grant was released last week by the Bears so he is a legitimate option at the right price and fits the system. Several other fringe veterans are out there as well and the Steelers could also scan other teams practice squads as well. If they pluck a player from there, he must be signed to the 53 man roster though.