Is The Lack Of Defensive Linemen Draft Prospects Visiting The Steelers A Sign?

While it’s not advisable to read too much into the pre draft visitors that the Pittsburgh Steelers have hosted so far in the month April, the lack of defensive end prospects on that list that would fit the defensive system is a bit surprising. Could this mean that the Steelers feel more comfortable at the position than most of us outsiders believe they are?

As of right now, Steve McLendon, Cameron Heyward and Cam Thomas appear to be the only locks to make the 2014 roster. In addition, it still looks like there’s a pretty good chance that Brett Keisel might be back for one more season as well. We won’t likely know for sure, however, until after June 1st, but I wouldn’t bet against that happening. If indeed Keisel is re-signed, that would lock up four spots of a potential six.

So what about Nick Williams, Brian Arnfelt and Hebron Fangupo? Where do those three players stand as it relates to 2014? Williams was a seventh round draft pick last year and was lost during the 2013 pre season to a knee injury. Surely they’re not ready to give up on him already. He would be the fifth defensive lineman if Keisel is indeed brought back. As for Arnfelt and Fangupo, they both surely would have the upper hand initially over any rookies that come in via the draft, right?

Remember, the Steelers normally only like to dress five defensive linemen for games and with that said, we also know how hard it is for rookies on defense to see playing time during their first season. When was the last time a rookie defensive lineman played more than 225 snaps during a season? 2001?

So far, Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt is the only player the Steelers have had in for a visit that would really fit as a 5-technique defensive end. Yes, they’ve also had Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald in for a visit, but why wouldn’t they being as he doesn’t count as one of their allotted 30 visitors from outside of the area? Unless they draft Tuitt, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman or Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III in the first two rounds, they might not draft a defensive lineman at all until day three, right?

We’ll continue to monitor the Steelers remaining visitors over the course of the next few weeks and while it won’t mean much if a few defensive lineman don’t come to Pittsburgh, it could be a signal that that position just isn’t a big priority for them this time around.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I honestly don’t thing Fang is part of the plan and he was a stop gap for the Taamu loss. He never saw one snap while Arnfeldt actually saw a couple.

    I could see Tuitt, Carrethers or a Mauro being added in this draft.

  • Callentown

    Very good point Dave. This line is only 2/3 complete. And you’d think the team would do its due diligence on Dlineman either way..


  • SteelersDepot

    Fangupo actually did see 13 snaps on defense last season.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Whoops. I thought he only saw pine. My fault, that slipped past me.

  • Craig Ressler

    I agree, if it isn’t Nix, Tuitt or Hageman we are probably looking at a day 3 prospect. Still not liking either of those 3 at 15 though. I think there is better value to be had over those guys if we stay put.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I agree, I don’t want any of them at 15, but I think chances are pretty good one of them could be there at our second pick. Personally, I hope it is Tuitt there.

  • They did make a lot of pro day visits

  • Mark McHugh

    Nick Williams is the guy I am most interested in. I’m hoping that he makes a huge jump in development and can see some snaps this year.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I agree, Dave, that if they don’t pick anyone early, then it will be a third day selection. There just don’t seem to be too many DL prospects coming out that fit the Steelers DL profile for end. I think they should draft one in the mid to late rounds like Mauro – Stanford, Urban – Virginia, Hart – Oregon, Coleman – California who would all be DE’s and Carrethers who is a NT. It will be interesting to see if they have any of these guys come in for a visit.

  • grw1960

    Good question, Dave. I remember reading on SCI during or right after the combine. That the Steelers met with a lot of WR and DL prospects at the combine. But I don’t remember which ones were mentioned or whether they were True DL types or OLB capable DEs.

  • CW

    Honestly I think the fact that the fact that a good number of the prospects that they would have an interest in at the 5 tech DE are nursing injuries and could fall in the draft because of that might be why the Steelers are not inviting them to Pittsburgh.

    Gardner, Urban, Tuitt, Easley, and Coleman all could fit the 5 tech DE slot and all are dealing with injuries of varying degrees from their final college year or the post season games and practices. And by not showing a major interest in them maybe one of them falls in the draft to where the Steelers are thinking they can expend a pick.

  • cp72

    I am telling you watch out from Arnfelt. Big strong kid with a high motor. He could be Chris Hoke with some size.

  • srdan

    I still think we should just clone Cam hayward.

  • cp72

    Who would have thought we would be wanting two Cam Heywards at this time last year? Really excited about this guy.

  • cp72

    I have read and agree this is a weak dline class. It seem particularly weak as far as 3-4 ends are concerned.

    I say resign Keisel and maybe a Nick Eason type of veteran after June 1st. I hate to see us reach for need. If Heyward can continue to develop maybe we can hold serve for one year and wait for better options.

  • RMSteeler

    With a supposedly shallow draft class, maybe they’ve seen and spoken to the ones they’re interested in at the combine or their pro days. If so, why waste a visit, especially if you can use the position as a smokescreen. If there weren’t so many positions of need, I’d like to see them bring in a punter, so the draftniks would have a cow for a few days.

  • JohnB

    I agree with most of this post. I believe that they’re going to resign The Beard after they get the Woodley money, they’ll probably draft a low round guy as well. And use Cam Thomas as the main backup.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I believe this is a valid point. IMO we do draft DL in this draft but late. If Tuitt, Hageman or Nix falls that is another story but I do not see any of these guys falling to us in the 2nd


    Take Carrethers or McCullers in the draft, slide McClendon to DE, re-sign Keisel on a one year deal, we’re set.
    We have to get the true NT, though, for this D to work…… No offense to McClendon, who did a credible job out of position, but he is a 5 tech DE.

  • patrick Mayfield

    good idea on the surface but you have to wait 20+ years for him to grow up…

    If you could clone someone why not just clone Mean Joe?

  • dgh57

    Tuitt is probably the best this draft class has to offer as far as a 5 tech DE thus the only visit from a 5 tech DE. Same with NT. If the talent isn’t there and if the plan is to play more sub-packages then why waste a visit when there are other needs? When you are allowed only 30 non local visits you can’t waste them!

  • steeltown

    This is an interesting topic.. obviously they haven’t given up on N.Williams or Arnfelt yet, but you would think they’ll be looking to add talent to the DL regardless because as it stands right now there’s no way to tell what Williams, Arnfelt or even Cam Thomas have to offer our Team

  • Biggie

    They may not have had many in for visits but they’ve interviewed at the combine, gone to pro days of a number of DL. They worked out Tuitt and Nix alot at ND’s pro day. I’d be good with either of them. Could be alot of draft deflection by the FO so other teams don’t pick up on whether they are looking at DE or NT more. Still no guarantees on where McClendon or Thomas are going to be used, they could move both around between NT and DE.

  • Craig Ressler

    That would be awesome. Would be pretty stoked!

  • AndyR34

    You keep saying this over and over as if it is a fact. There is a theory that if you repeat a falsehood enough times, people will believe it to be true. Where is your proof that Mac is a 5 technique? When has he played or practiced there? Where is it written by anyone in authority that he is in fact a 5-tech? We want to see legitimate evidence…not some ranting of a Steeler blogger

  • AndyR34

    I agree with your point here steeltown, although there were many on this site clamoring last year for Arnfelt to be starting over Ziggy! LOL! Where are they now? In addition…what would a late round DE draftee offer over and above Arnfelt or Williams? What would be the point? I think if the Steelers draft a DE…which I would be in favor of…it needs to be someone with a lot more floor and ceiling than those two…otherwise I don’t think you are making any progress…would need to happen no later than the 3rd, IMHO.

  • steeltown

    Yep agree.. draft DL in the early-mid Rds or not at all and bring back Keisel for ONE more year, then focus on the position next year

  • Bradys_Dad

    I L O V E the idea of getting Carrethers in round 4 or 5. Unless Fangu impresses the heck out of coaches come July and August he might be sent packing. It makes sense to allow Williams a shot at proving his worth and Arnfelt might have some upside simply due to his height.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I think it is possible that both of those guys end up filling a role for us this season. Williams we knew was raw, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have talent. Maybe the article above is right:

    maybe the team feels good about….

    Heyward, Thomas, McLendon
    Williams, Arnfelt, Keisel, Fangupo

  • dkoy85

    Regardless of what happens, this camp is going to be interesting to watch play out along the line. Who’s going to step up? Who’s going to be on the board with our 2nd pick? Tuitt? Nix?? Will they grab either at 1.15? I’d love to see Tuitt and Thomas battle it out in camp.

  • Jason

    Agree. Almost as bad as people who say Jarvis Jones’s natural position is ILB when he’s never played there.

  • AndyR34

    Exactly…I really don’t understand where people get this stuff!

  • Matt Manzo

    I didn’t realize Nix missed so many games last year! 5 of the last six?
    How serious are the injury concerns? And is he any better than Mt. Cody?

  • Bradys_Dad

    Also in agreement however I think JJ would get eaten alive on the inside in the big leagues. He just doesn’t have the strength or girth to stop a rampaging bull.

  • cp72

    I am a Notre Dame fan. I watched every snap Nix has played. He is a good player, but I was shocked when he was getting round 1 consideration. To me he’s more of a 2 down run stuffer that will come off the field in passing downs. He also had problems with injuries and his weight.

    Tuitt was not only the best lineman we had he was our best defensive player period and that includes when T’eo was there.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I am one of those who thought Arnfelt should’ve played a lot more last year. And as soon as he showed production I would’ve moved him into the starting spot over Ziggy. I still feel that way.

    D-Line is a position where you need snaps to get better. We see that in Heyward. You can leave him on the bench for 3 years saying “he’s not ready” when he actually could be dominate if you give him a chance.

    I 100% agree with you, that is doesn’t make much sense to draft another 7th round DE (in the short term). I do think it makes sense to draft Tuitt. he could see snaps this year, and by next year we have Heyward and Tuitt starting, with Arnfelt and Williams rotating in behind them.

    In the meantime I’d give Arnfelt as many snaps as possible.

  • charles

    Hopefully Williams and Arnstadt surprise us. The draft doesn’t appear hopeful. If Thomas and Kiesel are anything more than situational subs we will be relying on Ben to outscore the opponent. That might get us to the playoffs but not likely very deep.

  • Big White

    Yep. Sure is. I’m convinced the Steelers like their front three of McClendon, Thomas, and Heyward.


    If McClendon was ‘Plan A’ all along, then why did they draft Ta’amu, and why did they bring in Fangupo?
    McClendon is more of a 4-3 tackle, not a nose tackle, but as you and I know a 4-3 tackle is roughly equivalent to the 5 tech DE that we use in our 3-4.
    And I am not ranting……

  • AndyR34

    First…I was not accusing you of ranting…I have just seen it too often elsewhere.

    Second, no one here truly knows the mind and thinking of the FO, but…one could imagine: if Mac were “Plan A”, would you not need a back-up? Of course, thus the reason to draft Ta’amu. I also believe that Fangupo was originally brought in to provide camp competition or “insurance” in case Ta’amu went to jail or flamed out in some other manner…which he eventually did. JMO, of course. Well, I’m not sure I get your 4-3 tackle reference in relation to Mac, but I think he was that in college…not the pros. And with the paucity of 3-4 defenses run in college, most NFL 3-4 NT’s will have been 4-3 DT’s in college. Now these are my opinions and typically are stated as such. My objection to your OP was stating that Mac is not a “true NT” and similar statements that he is really a DE. I don’t believe he has played DE except in a few pre-season games very early in his career and it has been obvious for quite some time that the coaches and FO believe his skill-set is better suited to NT and thus groomed him to be Snack’s replacement. To me, this is obvious and to state otherwise is to deny reality, IMHO.

  • Brendon Glad

    It could just mean that they love Tuitt and/or Donald, and have high expectations that they will be able to pick the one of their choosing when they want to. I predict one of those 2 will be in black and gold by the end of round 2. Either Donald in round 1 at NT and mcclendon moves to DE, or Tuitt in round 2 at DE. I think Donald is being pigeon-holed as a one gapper just because of his quickness. And I don’t blame the experts for doing so. In the film I’ve seen, sure, you can’t help but think of Warren Sapp or John Randle before you think of Casey Hampton…..but what about Vince Wilfork? Don’t you see a little bit of him in Donald too? I think his power is just fine to be a 2 gap NT.

  • Donny Simmons

    I think he looks more like Keisal!

  • Donny Simmons

    I like Justin Ellis in the 4th. He can move and is strong. He also plays hard and runs to the ball. Danial McCullers is a 7 yard player. The next time you see him chase anything more then 10 yards it will be a ice cream truck!


    OK, no problem just wanted to be clear on the ranting.
    I think you and I will have to ‘agree to disagree’ on this in the end. Mc DID play DT in college and was listed on the 2011 depth chart as a ‘DT’ which is how I think the Steelers list their nose tackle (vs NT).
    I just think his skill set screams out DE in a 3-4, especially since he is such a good pass rusher. There have been a few stats that suggest that he was moved off the line more than we are used to for a Steelers NT, but he certainly wasn’t the CAUSE of our relatively poor run D last year.
    The fact is that wherever and whatever DL we draft, it can only help and that’s all the matters, right?

  • AndyR34

    I will agree to disagree…again…for I think someone drafted 1-3 would help…anyone drafted 6-7 would IMHO be pointless. How would they be an upgrade over Williams or Arnfelt…unless they were the steal of the draft?


    Agreed on the 6-7 comment. But then again, I didn’t suggest drafting a NT or DE in those rounds.
    I think rd 2 would be the place for our DL pick, if it’s one of the DEs. Rd5 if it’s a NT.