Pre-Draft Free Agent Movements: Defensive End
The vast bulk of the offseason roster moves to be made before the draft are already completed, so now is a good time to start taking a look at how the month of March (and the early portions of April) have affected the depth chart.
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with 21 unrestricted free agents. They retained many of them, but also lost a few that they likely wished to keep, and were forced to replace them from outside the organization. The Steelers also released a few players, in addition to signing half a dozen (and counting) players from other teams.
The next position we will take a look at is defensive end, and the offseason gains and losses there that the team has experienced.
Cam Thomas: The Steelers added Cam Thomas on a two-year, $4 million contract after a pair of their own free agent defensive ends found homes elsewhere. While the money is on Thomas coming in to play a rotational role at both end and nose, it’s not out of far left field that he could end up starting at defensive end if alternative options continue to run dry.
He has the size to play nose tackle, but should not be considered a threat to Steve McLendon, nor would moving him to end to allow Thomas to play nose be a desirable alternative.
Ziggy Hood: The Steelers didn’t appear to put up much of a struggle to keep Ziggy Hood, their former first-round draft pick. That was rendered moot with the four-year, $16 million contract that he signed anyway. Never the less, the silence on that front certainly makes it seem as though the Steelers were ready to move on, even if it meant experiencing some “temporary discomfort”, as Mike Tomlin would say.
Al Woods: The Steelers were interested in keeping Al Woods, though they evidently had some concerns about his experience, favoring bringing in Thomas for a similar price rather than keeping Woods along. Thomas should essentially fill the same role that Woods did last season, unless he is ultimately asked to start.
Remaining Free Agents:
Brett Keisel: Brett Keisel remains the feather in the cap in the defensive line equation. If they end up re-signing him in the summer, it solves the problem for one more season. They will likely draft a replacement in the meantime while seeing what Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams can offer this season. The bigger concern may be nose tackle depth if Hebron Fangupo continues to be persona non grata.