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.