Steelers Must Find Plugs To Fill Holes In Defensive Line

Football: Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez (3) in action, making pass under pressure vs Pittsburgh Steelers Cam Thomas (96) during preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia, PA 8/21/2014 CREDIT: Al Tielemans (Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X158561 TK1 )

When the Pittsburgh Steelers lost veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon in free agency yesterday, it opened up a pretty big hole in the team’s defensive line depth. But let’s not forget that the Steelers already had a hole there. Now the team has two holes to fill along the defensive line—one that they already knew about, and one that they were bracing for.

The other hole, of course, will be that which will be vacated by unrestricted free agent Cam Thomas when he manages to sign elsewhere, as it is rather unlikely that the Steelers end up re-signing him upon completion of his two-year, $4 million tenure with the team.

Take a look at the team’s defensive line as it is currently configured at your own risk, as it’s pretty dire once you get past the top. Up there are Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, two excellent bookend defensive ends who combined for 13.5 sacks last season and are on the cusp of Pro Bowl recognition.

Behind those two is the obstruction, Daniel McCullers, who did not offer much in his second season last year, although it should not be considered all that surprising given that the Steelers moved away from the nose tackle position—and he also missed the quarter of the season because of an ankle injury.

With McLendon’s departure, of course, McCullers’ role in 2016 becomes elevated, at least for the moment, as the starting nose tackle, such that there is a starting nose tackle in 2016. His playing time diminished following his injury and late in the season, but he came into the year with aspirations to show something. Reading the tea leaves suggests that there are mixed feelings about him among those whose opinions might matter (read: not bloggers).

After that? Well, there are two young players who were rookies last year in L.T. Walton, who spent the entire season on the 53-man roster, but was inactive for every game in which there were no linemen out with an injury, and Caushaud Lyons, who was claimed off waivers as an undrafted free agent, spent the first three weeks on the 53-man roster inactive, and then was moved to the practice squad for the rest of the year.

If the Steelers manage to find one keeper in between those two, then they should consider themselves fortunate, but even if that should come to pass, the reality is that neither of them fill either of the holes that are now open along the team’s defensive front line.

That could mean double dipping at the position come draft time, but given the other defensive needs, that might not be the sort of resources that they could afford to commit there, so it may require bargain hunting in free agency yet again in a year in which there seem to be few bargains.

The issue that the Steelers have found is that their interior defensive players have lacked much pass rush ability. McCullers appears to lack much on that front, and McLendon never developed in that area the way he was anticipated. Perhaps they can get that through the draft, but even if they do, it only plugs one hole. Where will they find the other plug to fill the leaky defensive line?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • NinjaMountie

    Yup, I’m shocked our DL is so thin. I’m really interested to see how the fix this situation and I don’t think relying on the draft beyond one player is an option. Definitely need to find some vet depth.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Where will they find the replacements? A draft class that is brimming with first round DL talent – even in the SECOND round!!
    Given the re-tasking of our DEs last year to emphasize more pass-rushing, I could see us going Billings/Reed/Butler in rd1, CB in rd2, then DL again in rd3 (Chris Jones, Shawn Oakman or Jihad Ward). S in rd4, Etc.

  • NinjaMountie

    I like Ward a bit but Oakman worries me. Watched him play a bit and he really fell off.

  • CodeNameJerk

    Camp cuts will provide in our time of need, brothers.

  • RickM

    It’s a real problem. They simply cannot rely on guys who have been released by multiple teams and hope ‘well maybe the guy will somehow be good enough here’. The draft is the most likely scenario, but they have to get it right if that’s their plan. I’ve felt all along that they will partially address their D-line depth through FA, but I’m starting to wonder. If they plan on settling for FA dregs, good luck with that. I’m sure they have a plan, but admittedly I’m getting a little nervous about what it is.

  • 58Steel

    I just posted this morning on another site (yes, I do confess this is not the only Steeler board I frequent) the question of the Steelers double-dipping at DL in this year’s draft. Will depend on what they think of Walton’s and/or Lyons’ progress, and any FA DL they may bring in. I could go for Billings, Jackson III, Nassib, Houston-Carson

  • Big Joe

    I agree our line and secondary have issues but if we double dip on line I’d do it in rds 1-2 then go safety in 3 and CB/ILB in 4. Not much DL depth for what we’re looking for at DE beyond round 2 that would offer both run defense and pass rush. I completely understand our OLB and ILB situation but “if” we were to double dip, we may have to stand pat there until next year. Late rd guys will not help much this year or next beyond ST.

  • Big Joe

    Yah. Oakman has issues

  • Big Joe

    Still waiting for word in Geathers. Coach was keen to get him back last year then he got injured. We still may see him back with us

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    Need depth badly

  • PittsburghSports

    This draft is loaded with big run stuffing defensive lineman, and I think we can wait a few rounds and get a good one. There’s a minimal amount of guys in this draft that can fill Heyward’s and Tuitt’s role, and that’s exactly why the Steelers targeted a player like Jason Jones early in free agency. If we can’t pick one up before the draft, we might be forced to reach a bit and grab one in the 1st rd, because I don’t think we’ll get a chance to grab one past the 25th spot, and I’m specifically talking about Chris Jones and Jihad Ward. I wish I could name a couple other guys that seem to be that type of player, but I can’t.

  • John Noh

    I really hope the team takes the BPA on the DL and not go after another Casey Hampton. An outstanding athlete under Cam Heyward’s tutelage can be a force in a couple of years. Of course, this will be contingent on McCullers or Walton panning out to some effective degree.

  • rdjmsr53

    I think they will get a nose tackle I the first round. I think they went to two down linemen because it put their best players on the field. If they can get a NT that can plug the middle it helps against the fun and hopefully puts teams in longer 2-3 downs.

  • PittsburghSports

    I’d also add Nkimdeche who is a rare athlete and an elite player that could fill that role, and although he’s only 6034, he still has good length, but after Bryant’s suspension I have to take him off the board. Most people already had him off, but his tape is so good, I have to consider him.

    One of my favorite players in this draft is Bronson Kaufusi, but he’s more like Jason Jones. A hybrid DE/DT. He’s older because of his BYU mission, but I love everything about his tape. He can stop the run, rush the passer, full toolbox of moves, and he’s an excellent athlete too.

  • stan

    I think they’re going to sign a mediocre DT just so they can be stout enough on short yardage plays and then play the typical 3-4 even less than they did last season.

    Couldn’t Walton play some DT if necessary?

  • Steel PAul

    I’ve been of the mindset all along that the team will draft a Dlineman with the first round pick.

    Now it seems as tho they will also need a FA, but likely later in the off season when teams make cuts.

  • Michael James

    Oakman can’t play and I would say they look at a S in round 2 and a CB in round 4. Agree with the other parts.

  • steeltown

    I see a 1st Rd DL selection, Billings or Butler maybe. After that, I think Walton in yr two could replace Cam Thomas’ spot on the depth chart

  • 58Steel

    Ya, we’ll see. He’s been in the league longer than I had remembered. Was hopeful when he had dropped weight before camp last year. I’ll just say I’m not counting on anything from him, and will be pleasantly surprised if it pans out.

  • 58Steel

    Haven’t heard anything else on Jason Jones. Since he was in Pittsburgh and left w/o a contract, that doesn’t sound promising. I’m guessing he probably wants more than Pitt wants to pay (2 yrs at $2 million per?)

  • george

    So who plays safety? Golden? Thomas?

  • PittsburghSports

    Yeah I’ll bet it’s close to what McLendon got.

  • What I have as a Mock

    25: R1P25 DT VERNON BUTLER LOUISIANA TECH

    58: R2P27 DE SHILIQUE CALHOUN MICHIGAN STATE

    89: R3P26 CB CYRUS JONES ALABAMA

    124: R4P25 DE ANTHONY ZETTEL PENN STATE

    221: R6P45 WR JALIN MARSHALL OHIO STATE

    230: R7P8 QB NATE SUDFELD INDIANA

    247: R7P25 RB PAUL JAMES RUTGERS

  • Big Joe

    I have no expectations either but another low rd rookie or low talent roster cut from some other team isn’t any better than what we had behind our starters last year. Let’s see what the next month brings us all

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Sub another guy then. My point is that we can afford to let McClendon go since the class has so much talent.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    I mentioned taking a S. If we don’t get one in FA (and even if we do) I feel pretty sure that we will draft one.

  • Spencer Krick

    No safety >.>

  • Spencer Krick

    Not really sure what Walton can do right now, I think the draft will be very telling.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yeah I just threw that out as part of the bigger point of not sweating losing McClendon. I am not convinced we are done in FA yet either – still a lot of capable players available and we haven’t even restructured a single contract yet.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    I think that either YOU OR I could replace Cam Thomas!!!

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Plug the middle, stay on the field for three downs AND rush the passer – Andrew Billings.

  • No the value was very bad after round two and when you have a 38 year old olb as your starter you better act fast. Plus I think Golden is the guy there and there are still good backups available in FA. And Grant may see some time at safety in an experiment this spring.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    You don’t think either Jones or Ward will be there at 58?

  • NinjaMountie

    I agree. I can see Safety, DL still being addressed in FA.

  • PittsburghSports

    Hard to tell. I definitely overvalue them because they’re a couple of my favorites, especially Jones. I don’t think there’s too many players like them, so they both could be gone, yes. Maybe Ward makes it to 58, but I think Jones is gone.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    As Steelers fans I think we know the true value of 3-4 DEs and OLBs. And how hard it is to find a good one!
    I have the feeling that either CJones or Ward will be there though at 58

  • george

    I’m rarely right when it comes to Steeler drafts but I think they need one that can start which means going higher than the 4th round. I know alot of people say there is not a lot of S talent in the 1st Rd but when you’re picking at 25 you might as well be picking in the 2nd Rd.

  • PittsburghSports

    Ideally, I’d like Jones at #58 and Ward at #89, but who knows.

  • Ask Questions Later

    If Oakman has issues, then what is Robert Nkemdiche then?

  • Ask Questions Later

    Billings and whoever the Steelers have on their board for the lineman.

  • Ask Questions Later

    Well.. this draft for defensive lineman is the exact equivalent of the 2014 Wide Receiving class. If anything, even someone like Robert Nkemdiche can be the “Martavis Bryant” of the class…. in the facet his talent and potential far surpasses anyone’s in the draft..

    …. Just keep him on a short leash and.. of course.. buyer beware.

  • Ask Questions Later

    Chris Jones is likely gone. Players of his measurable’s and potential often go anyway. However, should Veron Butler still be on the list and kicks Chris Jones down… that will be interesting to see what happens then.

  • Ask Questions Later

    Not sure what Walton can do. Keep in mind his potential has yet to be tapped due to the lack of development. Either way, should Tomlin not trust him.. then the draft will tell the story.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yeah we are hard to predict for sure. From what I have read guys like Jayrob Kearse from Clemson could be there for us in rd3. But I like Killibrew – big hitter from Southern Utah. He would prob have to be 2nd rd. Then Thompson from Bouse State – we might have to get him in the first if they want him. I was kinda hoping we would get a FA Safety (hard position for a rookie to learn).

  • Ike Evans

    We double dipping at dline?

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    Thinking Jason Jones could be a nice signing. 1yr 2M i’ll take him.

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    I wouldn’t hate that. I see a MLB in the mix too – we will always draft LBs

  • vasteeler

    not bad at all, i could live with that draft

  • vasteeler

    i was thinking the same thing , you beat me to it

  • Matthew Marczi

    I doubt you’ll find somebody worth putting on the field for trading a kicker who lost a position battle.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t think they’re on the Hampton-type market anymore. The reason they were prepared to move on from McLendon is because they weren’t satisfied with his pass-rush ability, so obviously they’re looking toward more of a DT/DE hybrid player who can still play nose, but offers more in the nickel.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t think it was a personnel decision. It was a schematic decision. Because there’s no way the team was higher on Ross Cockrell in Week Two than they were Steve McLendon. The Steelers underwent a minor philosophical shift, which was part of the impetus of letting Dick LeBeau go, who was an ardent supporter of the base defense (notice the contract the Titans just gave to Al Woods). Mike Tomlin has been talking about how the league is moving toward sub-package football for years. He realized the Steelers have been behind the trend, and with Keith Butler’s most recent contract having come up, it just made sense to make the shift last year. They did what they wanted to do, not what they had to do.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, I’m still hoping they get that done.

  • Craig M

    Is S Reggie Nelson still available? Possibly sign him trade down then get increased chances on picks?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    The Steelers never go into the draft completely desperate at any one position group. So even if we don’t like their choices, they will pick up a cheap DL guy FA before the draft.

    Also, it’s a deep draft for DL, so that’s usually when the Steelers wait a couple of rounds and pick someone. That’s very likely unless one they judge a special talent drops in their lap. Billings, please. If I were the Steelers I would trade right out of the first round, as I could see lots of guys I would love in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Everything from Safeties, CB, DL, OLB. All kinds.

    But they will never do that. Oh well.

  • CodeNameJerk

    Sometimes guys don’t lose, the other guy just wins.

  • DKM58597551

    I’ve ready many comments over the years from many different people who were normally very informed, intelligent and were very fair in discussions regarding “our” team. One it is very easy being a critic and assuming most if not nearly every single person posting here has not worked in an NFL front office and or played professional football we are not ‘insiders”…anyway with those comments noted I was very excited this season that it appeared the Steelers front office/ownership appeared to fully realize that the ‘window’ of WINNING a Super Bowl or dare I say it Super Bowls with Ben will likely be closing soon. The Steelers have been more often than not successful..but that is the point what one determines a successful NFL franchise is very different than most others. We have been spoiled at times compared to other teams.
    No one knew that Bryant was going to be an idiot and I was very excited at first so far this off season and I agree for the most part even after the last few days but still the Steelers cannot begin to think that they can go into another season expecting to get four or five starters on defense either through the draft and or free agency rather before or after the draft before the real season starts. Heck…even if they get four or five starters what quality will these “starters” be? Further..what about ANY quality depth on the o-line, the d-line doesn’t even have enough people to line up …the d-backs are for the most part very lacking… I know this is long and the Steelers have only so much money to spend and have key free agents coming up after this season but I think they need to go “all in” THIS season and see where the chips fall. I know going ‘all in’ does not always work but once you seriously look in detail at this roster as of now is still has questions all over it and GLARING issues at very important spots. I realize it is mid-March but I think they need to be much more aggressive yet this off season..even before the draft yet. Force Cortez Allen’s hand even more… get rid of Shaun Shuisam at some point… possibly restructure/extend Timmons, Ben, Pouncey, Heyward, Brown. I know it is easy to be a critic and be a ‘keyboard’ GM but not sure about you but I think this could be the year even w/o bonehead Bryant as long as they fill these holes with above average starters and stay FREAKING healthy…hope for the best!!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, but here’s the thing. If your second-year kicker doesn’t win, then he probably lost when the other guy is in his mid-30s and has a decent cap hit. So you’re getting much for him. And if he wins, you’re not getting much for the mid-30s big-cap kicker either. Suisham isn’t a Pro Bowler and neither is Boswell. I’m just saying, I would be PLEASANTLY surprised if they could get DL depth out of that. Personally, I think the best they could do is a 6th-round pick, more likely a 7th.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Well said and very good first post.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Agree. They already tried to a FA dreg in C. Thomas when they got into the game late and we all know how that worked out. In taking a glance at the FA DL market I can see why they brought J. Jones in when he already seems like the best of the rest for what they are looking for. If they were not that far apart maybe they can find a way to pony up a few more dollars. It doesn’t appear they are depending on rapid improvement from McCullers and Walton. If they are going to rely on an early round pick I hope for a more accelerated development than Tuitt in his rookie year as he lost many snaps to C. Thomas well into the year. They are in a tough spot getting good DL depth. Almost makes you wonder if DL depth should have taken precedence over OL depth even though this is a weak draft for OL and a deep draft for DL.

    So like you said they need to get right. They really can’t afford a miss in the first 4 rounds. On a side note, the M. Bryant effect on rebuilding this defense can’t be understated as it changed their priorities. Last year they felt forced to select a WR in the 3rd round when clearly there was more of a need for a defensive player. And this year they use valuable dollars in signing Green to offset his loss when they could have been focusing on a key defensive player. That being said I’m still not sure I agree with their approach when there is much needed help at 4 defensive positions and the market growing increasingly thin by the day.

  • Rusted Out

    I just don’t share your nervous feeling. McClendon and Cam Thomas are the only guys we’ve lost… I would say it’s addition by subtraction with Cam, and let’s face it, McClendon was an average NT that was only utilized in 30% of the defensive snaps. Those are not huge losses. The Steelers will have signed some D line depth by the time the draft rolls around, or it just becomes a bigger priority when drafting. Don’t sweat it, the FO will have a good plan together.

  • Rusted Out

    If J. Jones is signed, he’s your rotational DE depth, and that completely negates the Cam Thomas loss (if you can call that a loss), and is quite the upgrade. McClendon setting sail for the Jets was surprising, but if there is a position on the field where a young guy can come in and excel early, it’s NT. I think that the problem is that now the Steelers will have to grab a NT in the first 3 rounds to fill the void of a starter. I also don’t think that going into the season with McCullers as your starting NT is that bad of a scenario.

    Good foresight on the Bryant effect. I agree with you about grabbing Coates in the 3rd over defense. On the other hand, I think the Green signing had everything to do with Heath’s surprise retirement. The only thing the Steelers have done poorly in FA thus far in my opinion, is not pick up a safety, although I see why they let Weddle go to the Ravens. Man that was alot of money for a guy over 30.

  • Rusted Out

    Or was it because he has the opportunity to get twice as many snaps, and Jets gave him about twice as much money as the Steelers thought he was worth.

  • Rusted Out

    Matthew, don’t you think that if the Steelers had a Casey Hampton type player then the philosophy may have been to play a little more base D? I fully understand the shift to play nickel, but I don’t think it’s wrong to think that a top NT would allow the Steelers to stay in base more often. The run defense was more solid than I was expecting last year, but it seemed like every single big run came when the Steelers were in Nickel D. Yes, I know they were in Nickel almost 70% of the time and that would make sense mathmatically, but just look at what the Ravens (who know us best and always exploit our weaknesses) were able to do against our D.

    I know you’re a big proponent of the this new style of D under Butler, and so am I, but I still think a top NT that pushes the pocket, allows you the opportunity to stay in base more often. A young Hampton was incredibly disruptive in the middle, and it helped everyone on the D.

  • Rusted Out

    Your avatar really urks me.. I love it.

  • Steeler-Drew

    My problem is having serious needs with 4 different positions and not filling one of them through FA. I agree about McCullers, I think they could do worse and actually thought he played decent when given a chance. And if he is only going to play 25-30% of the snaps how much is he going to hurt you. As for safety Alex got me sold on Quddos who signed a modest 3 year contract at only 4 million per year. So when I see them opt for more offense when this defense desperately needs an infusion of talent it kind of sticks in my craw they show no interest in that type of player who would be an upgrade over Golden. But I can’t blame them for not going after Weddle at the price.

    i just feel this regime is not being honest with themselves. They are still approaching the defense like they can strictly fix it through the draft even with several failed picks in recent years. The Jones miss was huge and could have been avoided. I feel like it’s an arrogant approach despite their failures. They are leaving no room for error while Ben’s window is closing fast. And they are slower than most to develop players in the secondary. Regardless if it’s a S or CB regardless of the round I don’t see that player making a significant contribution this year. Sorry for the negative slant but I think not filling at least one need and getting an impact player in the secondary is probably going to come back to bite them this year.

    I still have a few players of interest in P. Robinson and R. Johnson in the secondary but their approach so far has offered little hope they will have an interest.

  • Rusted Out

    Most of us understand that we are “armchair GM’s” and “Monday morning QB’s”. No need to point that out. Also, I don’t normally say anything about grammar and structure on message boards, but a paragraph is almost always 3-5 sentences, and begins with the next thought or subject. I only say this because it was difficult for my eyes to follow. Welcome to the Depot.

  • Rusted Out

    Wow, I couldn’t agree with you more on their approach thus far, and sticking with the same philosophy even though it’s failed them, hits the nail square on the head… Hate to agree with you there, but I absolutely have to. It’s almost like a cocky stubbornness at this point. It feels exactly like how the secondary was managed last year…

    I really don’t know what I can add to that because it was so accurate. What positions do you think they should address in FA as opposed to the draft, because again you’re right, a corner and/or a safety has not come in and play right away in as long as I can remember.

    The best moves the Steelers have made thus far in FA are the non-moves of Cam, Blake, and Allen.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Aside from Mitchell they have tried to rebuild this defense strictly through the draft but the bottom line as it stands right now they have failed. The blatant disregard to the importance of having good CB’s and wasted picks on players like Archer and L. Jones is coming back to bite them. But yet they are going to disregard their failures and give it another shot as if they were successful at it. Given their recent track record at evaluating and developing talent in the secondary you would think they would have opted for the safer route by signing a proven veteran.

    They also give off the impression they are enamored with the offensive side of the ball. I don’t get it. NE had a pretty good defense but Seattle and Denver had very good to great defenses in their Super Bowl wins. I have to tell you Rusted if they draft an offensive player in the first 4 rounds I will have lost all faith.

    As for free agency I thought like you said they should have targeted the S position. Less costly with an instant upgrade over Golden who I like but I’m not sold on. But Weddle was the last of the impact players and now you are left with players like R. Johnson who may not even be much of an upgrade from Golden. P. Robinson is available but they pinched pennies with him last year so I doubt he would come back for another visit. That’s about it, those two and Jones are about as good as it gets for players who may fit at a reasonable price.

    As far rookies I honestly can’t remember one coming in on defense and making a first year impact. Troy didn’t make one until his second year. And I’m praying they don’t bring Blake back. That would leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth made worse since their only key signing at CB was one of their own in Gay.

    Serious question for you. Do you feel like a secondary consisting of Gay, Cockrell, Golson, Golden, and Mitchell is good enough to get them to a Super Bowl or even win one this year? I personal don’t but I respect your opinion and would like to hear your answer.

    And I agree not bringing Allen or Blake provides for an instant upgrade. I have to think since it’s early, but if neither one of them comes back I have a feeling Rooney gave them a direct order to move on from both of them.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Not what they thought he was worth, What he was worth to them, because they didn’t think he offered much in the package they use 65-70% of the time. If they thought he could sub for Heyward, they could’ve given him $4 million a year if he could log 50% of snaps a game or more.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Think about it. You have Steve McLendon, a player you love in his role, been here 7 years, 3-year starting nose tackle. Then you have Ross Cockrell, just signed a couple weeks ago, virtually no NFL experience. They still heavily, heavily favored the nickel when they had no reason to. That tells me it’s a true philosophical shift away from the Hampton type of nose tackle who offers little in the way of pass rushing. Do I think Hampton today would log more snaps today than McLendon? Not really, no, I don’t think his abilities as a run stuffer would significantly alter the Steelers’ plans. They WANT to have 5 DBs on the field, because the offenses have 3 WRs on the field and backs and tight ends who are more involved in the passing game. Mike Tomlin would not draft Casey Hampton in the first round today if he was there. Probably not the second round either. It’s just not the way the game is played today.

  • Rusted Out

    Again Drew, you and I are peas in a pod as far as we view things, but to answer your question… We made it to all the way to the divisional round of the playoffs last year with Blake and Allen on the field. I’ve heard through the grape vine that Antwon Blake was the 30-32nd worst corner back in NFL football last year… how many guys played corner in the NFL last year? If you said Blake was the 1 billionth ranked CB out of 1 billion and one, I would not believe you. Blake was a complete turd sandwich and a total injustice to our team when on the field. I believe that Art Rooney II is a smart enough business man to step in there personally, and see to it that Blake is no longer on the team. Tomlin can’t play him if he’s not on the team.
    If the Steelers can make it to the divisional round with last years starting group in the secondary, then I think they can bring home #7 with the subtraction of Blake and Allen and the current group under contract. Hopefully Boykin is resigned, and the fact that he hasn’t gotten offers elsewhere yet, is very positive. I’m comfortable with that group, yet hoping that Golson, Grant, or a new draft pick can take over in some regard.
    The arrow is pointing up at almost every position on the front seven except for maybe NT, and that position is currently in limbo. With the only other area of any concern to me would be ROLB. 38 yr old Harrison, and an underachieving Jarvis Jones. 100% chance that James retires after this year, and Jarvis has yet to show that he can even be close to a 10 sack guy. I wouldn’t be shocked if they went no.1 in the draft on an OLB.
    Hey, I think Aldon Smith is available to play in the NFL again… Talk about risk vs reward at a reasonable price… I dunno, that might tarnish our image of being pot smokers.

  • Rusted Out

    Thought about it. Steve McLendon was a super average NT period. He was Casey’s journeyman and nothing else. If you are saying that they chose Cockrell over McLendon instead of Nickel over Base, then your logic is a bit askew.
    Anyone who passed on Casey Hampton right now, or the day he was drafted would forever regret it. If you need proof as to how a NT like Casey Hampton could vastly improve any team now, as well as then, I encourage you to watch the Steelers vs. Browns 2002 wildcard game. Big Snack had the center floating an inch above the turf all game. The pocket was collaspsed from the middle, linebackers got home, and the QB’s were made uncomfortable.
    I want a super athletic, super strong, fatman in the middle. You can continue to tell me why that’s not important in a base 3-4, but currently we have two good “bigs”, and they got too much playing time last year…

  • 58Steel

    Yep

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    *pulls towel dispenser off the wall*

  • Rusted Out

    I guarantee he kicked it!

  • CodeNameJerk

    Listen I’m not saying this is at all likely to happen, but sometimes teams get desperate. I feel like a kicker with a good history, even with his cap hit could net the Steelers a decent rotational type guy given the right circumstances. But, I agree with the 6th/7th being the most likely scenario.

  • I have them doing that because their D Line depth is non existent. And even if they sign JJ if its only a one year pact then you at least have someone waiting in the wings as depth. Lt Walton is just a guy at this point and what happens if big dan falls completely on his face. Or tuitt/cam go down. depth depth depth.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, first off, I have to disagree with your take on McLendon, but even that doesn’t matter, because the Steelers disagree with your take on McLendon. They liked him quite a bit. And that brings me to my original point, which is that I’m NOT saying that they chose Cockrell over McLendon, which would have been stupid. They chose nickel over 3-4.

    Pointing to a game that took place in 2002 is no evidence for why Casey Hampton would be a first-round pick in 2016. Hey is the prototype of the dinosaur nose tackle that does not exist as a franchise player in today’s league. Even back then offenses tried to get the Steelers to take Hampton off the field by passing more. Now offenses simply pass more because they want to, making Hampton of far less value now than he was 15 years ago.

    The Steelers, and most 3-4 teams, are looking for a more athletic player than Hampton, who can contribute as an effective tackle in a two-down-lineman front. Hampton wouldn’t be that guy. McLendon wasn’t that guy enough to justify more playing time or more money.