Shawn Lemon, a former undrafted free agent out of the class of 2011, failed to catch on with any NFL team after leading his University of Akron football program in his senior year with seven sacks and four fumble recoveries.
Later that year, Lemon briefly played in the Canadian Football League, but was released 10 days after making his in-game debut, and he spent the early parts of 2012 being passed around in the Arena Football League.
He later found himself back in the CFL with Edmonton in 2012, where he finished the season recording six sacks to go along with two fumble recoveries. After being released, he signed with the Calgary Stampeders in 2013, where he has spent the last two seasons.
In 2013, however, Lemon spent most of the year injured, playing in only six games while missing 12. Still, in that span, he recorded 18 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble recovery. But his breakout came this past season, and is what has landed him in the lap of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2014, Lemon recorded 31 tackles, adding 13 sacks while producing eight forced fumbles and an interception. He helped lead the Stampeders to Grey Cup honors at the end of the season, and Calgary subsequently released him in order for him to pursue a future in the NFL.
Right now, it seems like a pretty decent chance that he might have a future with the Steelers, considering three of their four outside linebackers on the roster are currently slated to be free agents. On 2013 first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones is currently under contract for 2015.
Jason Worilds, a former second-round pick in 2010, played in 2014 under a transition tag, and though the team ostensibly is prioritizing his re-signing, it’s not impossible that he prices himself out of range.
Meanwhile, James Harrison, who returned at age 36 to play very well for stretches, is undecided about his future, and there are reports that the Steelers are more interested in moving on rather than reliving the past. Perhaps the signing of Lemon is but a small indication of just that.
The other free agent, Arthur Moats, was signed to a one-year deal, and he wound up starting for most of the year at right outside linebacker while Jones, and later Harrison, were injured. While he produced four sacks in inconsistent snaps, I doubt very much the Steelers intend to enter the 2015 season with Moats as a starter.
The Steelers once showed interest in a CFL pass rusher before when Cameron Wake became available in 2009, but the former Penn State player was signed by the Miami Dolphins after tearing through the CFL for two seasons with a combined 39 sacks.
When asked if the Steelers were close to signing him prior to a game between Pittsburgh and Miami in 2010, Tomlin said “not close enough. He’s a Dolphin”.
This time, the Steelers got their CFL pass rusher. While he may not develop into a Cameron Wake, it at least shows that the team is being proactive in attempting to address one of their most critical areas of need, which is the pass rush on defense.