Immediately after the Pittsburgh Steelers selected defensive end L.T. Walton in the sixth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft, defensive line coach John Mitchell talked to the media about the selection. While he did talk quite a bit about Walton, he was also asked to discuss other players on the Steelers defensive line and he made one interesting comment about defensive end Clifton Geathers, who was signed to the team late in the 2014 season after veteran defensive end Brett Keisel was lost for the year to an injury.
“I asked for Clifton Geathers and others to come back so I’m really happy right now,” Mitchell said. “I have some guys with athletic ability, I have some guys that can do the things we are going to require them to do and they should be better at.”
Being as Geathers failed to dress for any Steelers games last year after he was signed, it didn’t look as if he had a future with the team. However, with two weeks worth of OTA practices now in the books, it’s beginning to look like Geathers has a good shot at making the team’s final 53 man roster this year.
According to a Friday report by Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, Geathers, who was originally drafted by the by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of South Carolina, has lost 50 pounds since being signed by the Steelers. Additionally, he told Wexell that he’s currently taking reps with the Steelers second-team defensive line unit along with the aforementioned Walton and second-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers. That ultimately means that he’s currently ahead of defensive end Cam Thomas, who is coming off of a very disappointing first season with the Steelers.
When the team arrives at Latrobe later on this summer for training camp, it will be interesting to see if both Geathers and Walton continue to work ahead of Thomas. If that winds up being the case, Thomas’ time in Pittsburgh could come to an end by the start of the regular season as the Steelers normally like to keep only six defensive lineman on their 53 man roster. Remember, Thomas is scheduled to earn $2 million in 2015 and that’s way too much for a player who is at best a ten-snap-a-game reserve.
At the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, Geathers reportedly weighed 299 pounds and while he did add quite a bit of weight since that time, he told Wexell that he now weighs 306 pounds, which is the perfect weight for a Steelers 3-4 defensive end.
Geathers has played just over 540 defensive snaps during his NFL career and they’ve been pretty uneventful. Mitchell obviously sees something in Geathers and now that he has spent a good amount of months learning the Steelers system, perhaps he can wind up making Thomas expendable come September.
More than anything else, perhaps Geathers can help strengthen the Steelers run defense this upcoming season in a reserve role and maybe block a kick or two on special teams in addition being as he’s 6-7 with 37¾-inch arms to go along with a 36-inch vertical.