Steelers 2015 D-Line Offers Possibilities Of Improvement Over Last Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line looks to make some major strides in 2015, with second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt looks to fully grab the reigns of the starting spot left by fan favorite, Brett Keisel. At the other end spot along their front is arguably the best 3-4 defensive end in football, not named J.J. Watt in the form of Cameron Heyward. He is the unquestioned leader of the defensive line and he led the team in sacks last year with the retired Jason Worilds, with 7.5 apiece. With whispers of new defensive coordinator Keith Butler possibly blitzing more this upcoming season, it should free up more opportunities for Heyward to get involved chasing the quarterback and perhaps gain the Pro Bowl recognition that’s been eluding him.

In the middle, the team is two-deep at nose tackle, with the vastly-underrated Steve McLendon backed up by the monstrous Daniel McCullers. McLendon doesn’t quite fit the bill in terms of your average “beefy” NT but he makes up for it with his quickness and offers rare pass rush ability from the position. In fact, he also offers the flexibility to kick out and play end in certain packages, perhaps in a goal line or jumbo look while McCullers holds down the center of the line. McCullers also looks primed to take on a bigger role heading into year 2, as he’s reportedly down about 15 pounds. He offers truly rare size for the position, and minus the excess weight, he can hopefully be more active manhandling opposing offensive linemen and using his huge wingspan to disrupt throwing lanes.

As far as depth goes, the team spent their sixth-round pick this year on promising L.T. Walton, who at 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds possesses the ideal size requirements the front office likes of their defensive ends. He’s a bit raw and John Mitchell will likely want to spend some extra time with him in training camp but he looks the part. Also, the team retained Clifton Geathers earlier this offseason, at the request of Mitchell. After bouncing around the league with seven different teams in his first several years in the league, Geathers looks to finally have found a home in the Steel City. He is a huge man at 6-foot-8 and he’s reportedly dropped 50 pounds this offseason and taking snaps with the second unit defense.

The cupboard seems to be plentiful but yet green heading into the 2015 season. With training camp still over a month away, and other team’s players on the roster bubble, it’s not out of the question for another name to be added to the mix. For now though, the first and second team defenses look to allow the team to do something many fans have been clamoring for, ever since last season: the release of severely underwhelming defensive end Cam Thomas.

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