We are now just over a week away from the Pittsburgh Steelers reporting to Latrobe for training camp, so today we continue on with our look at the training camp roster battles with our look at the defensive end position and the battles for roster spots within.
When you look at the Steelers defensive end situation heading into training camp, you see that the locks to make the 53 man roster are Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. Outside of those three players is where the uncertainty lies as the Steelers could very well keep as many as two more defensive ends in addition. The decision to keep 5 in total out of camp pretty much could come down to whether or not nose tackle Casey Hampton starts the season on the PUP list, which would force him to miss the first six weeks of the season. All signs point to that indeed happening, but Hampton warned a few weeks ago not to count him out just yet.
The other defensive ends on the roster competing for what could be up to two defensive end roster spots are Al Woods, Corbin Bryant, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun and Jake Stoller. Let\’s now take a look at each of those four players more in depth.
Al Woods – The Steelers claimed Woods off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks early in November last season and they kept him on the 53 man roster the remainder of the year. Originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, Woods saw no playing time of defense once he arrived in Pittsburgh. Woods figures to get work as a 5-technique defensive end for the Steelers once training camp gets started and most likely on the left side behind Hood. Woods has had the whole offseason program to work with defensive line coach John Mitchell, so it will be interesting too see if he is first, able to make the transition, and second, where he fits into the rotation behind the starters. The LSU product is not eligible for the practice squad after his time with both the Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so it is a do or die situation for him to remain in Pittsburgh. He figures to be battling Bryant for a depth spot on the 53 man roster.
Corbin Bryant – Bryant was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent last year out of Northwestern. He spent most of the 2011 season on the Steelers practice squad, but was promoted to the 53 man roster for the game against the Arizona Cardinals after Aaron Smith was lost for the season and Chris Hoke was sidelined with his injury. In the game against the Cardinals, Bryant saw all of 5 snaps on defense, so it is tough to get a firm grasp on his development thus far. Like Woods, he figures to benefit greatly from the Steelers offseason program, which will be his first because of the lockout his rookie season. During the 2011 preseason, Bryant saw action in all four games and it was exclusively on the left side. In those games he totaled 6 tackles. Depending on whether or not nose tackle Hampton starts the season on the PUP list, Bryant could very well wind up making the 53 man roster out of training camp as a seventh or even eigth defensive lineman. His primary focus though in camp should be outplaying Woods. If he does, he should make the roster. If he doesn\’t, he could be a candidate for the practice squad once again.
Ikponmwosa Igbinosun – At almost 6 foot, 4 inches, Igbinosun figures to have his work cut out for him in making the Steelers 53 man roster as a defensive end after being signed as an undrafted free agent back in April. Igbinosun showed his speed, strength and athleticism at his pro day back in late March by registering a 40 time of 4.95 seconds to go along with a 4.57 short shuttle and 24 reps on the bench. The Southern Connecticut State defensive tackle has a lot to learn though about the duties of a 3-4 defensive end and this makes him a prime candidate for the Steelers practice squad should Bryant wind up making the 53 man roster over Woods. Igbinosun will likely only receive playing time during the preseason late in games, so he must take advantage of whatever opportunities he gets to show he has upside worth holding on to.
Jake Stoller – Stoller, another player signed as an undrafted free agent back in April, played defensive tackle at Yale and is making the conversion to a 3-4, 5-technique defensive end with the Steelers. The 6-foot-3, 284-pound Yale product had 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles in 10 games last season for the Bulldogs has his work cut out for him just to make the practice squad when the team reports to training camp.
Previous Training Camp Roster Battle Post
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Wide Receivers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Tight Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Kickers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Cornerbacks
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Safeties
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Running Backs
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Nose Tackles