The Pittsburgh Steelers gave no reason for anybody to think much of the acquisition of inside linebacker L.J. Fort, whom they claimed off of the waiver wire last week. Indeed, all of the attention was paid to the corresponding move that opened a roster spot for him.
But while Fort’s chances of actually making the Steelers’ 53-man roster are virtually nonexistent, that is not stopping him from making the most of his playing time and putting quality plays on tape for other teams to see when the final cuts come.
In just seven snaps, Fort managed to break up a pass as well as record a sack while coming around the defensive left edge on a blitz. Perhaps in showing at the end of the Steelers’ last preseason game that he has the ability to play, the team will not be forced to log so many snaps with Ian Wild at linebacker, as they did in that game.
At the time that the Steelers had the opportunity to acquire Fort, the former 2012, undrafted free agent, the team had been dealing with injuries to three of their six inside linebackers, and were playing a safety at linebacker.
Lawrence Timmons remains sidelined by a turf toe that Mike Tomlin does not deem serious, and Vince Williams seems likely to return soon from a hamstring injury. It was 2013 sixth-round draft pick Jordan Zumwalt whose injuries finally made him expendable, however.
No matter how well Zumwalt may or may not have played, his inability to stay on the practice field caused the Steelers to make a move to replace him, given that he already was outside of the roster bubble.
Fort represents a healthy body at the position to finish out the preseason, which is even more important given the injuries that some of the players higher up the depth chart are dealing with. It seems likely that he survives the first wave of cuts and logs a lot of snaps, along with Terence Garvin, to run out the preseason schedule.
The six-foot linebacker was originally signed by Cleveland, and in fact was an opening day starter for them in 2012 due to injuries, but he made the most of his opportunities then as well, recording the first, and thus far only, interception of his career, as well as his only sack.
In all, he logged 20 tackles, a sack, and an interception in less than 100 snaps, with just the one start. He has not had the opportunity to get back on the field on defense since his rookie year, however, and is now on his sixth different team.
The Steelers already have five inside linebackers lined up for their 53-man roster, however, and would be unlikely to have a place, or room, for him on the practice squad—especially considering he didn’t play on special teams. But he will give the team the opportunity to try to keep their linebackers fresh, and in return, Fort is being given the opportunity to audition for another try in another city.