I hate to be “that guy.” No one likes the person who “told you so,” and it’s more self-serving than anything else. But a couple weeks ago, we wrote about the need for the Pittsburgh Steelers to add depth along the defensive line. This was before Stephon Tuitt went down with a knee injury. He, of course, was sorely misses last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
It wasn’t even as if Cam Thomas were terrible trying to fill in. Charcandrick West rushing for over 100 yards doesn’t sit well, and it shouldn’t, but Thomas didn’t embarrass himself on his 17 snaps as a base 3-4 end. Maybe that’s partly the bar being set low but I genuinely thought Thomas did some positive things, despite him and Antwon Blake becoming the daily whipping boy’s for Steelers’ nation.
Where the team missed Tuitt the most was as a pass rusher. Thomas nor Steve McLendon came remotely close to replacing the Steelers’ sack leader. McLendon uses his hands well and can work off blocks but is too slow in everything he does than what is expected from a nickel defensive tackle. Thomas is even more lethargic and routinely stuck while rookie L.T. Walton is inefficient with his hands, the typical perils that come with a player from a smaller school and lacks experience.
The Steelers struggled to get after Alex Smith and afforded him clean pockets throughout the majority of the day. With Tuitt officially ruled out Sunday, the road doesn’t get any easier against the Cincinnati Bengals where Andy Dalton has been sacked just six times in 2015.
It bears repeating: the Steelers must add depth to the position. As an injury replacement and to help spell Tuitt and Cam Heyward, who were playing nearly unsustainable snaps. The deal I proposed before still makes sense.
If you missed it: The Steelers trade Dri Archer and a 2017 7th round pick for New York Jets’ defensive end Leger Douzable.
You can clink the link in the first paragraph for my long, drawn-up proposal I originally made that fleshes everything out.
Here’s the cliff notes version: Douzable is experienced, versatile, and a good athlete who can get after the quarterback. The Jets are stacked along the defensive line with the return of Sheldon Richardson off suspension, leading Douzable to see only six snaps last week. He’ll continue to be phased out of that defense and in the last year of his deal, could be playing elsewhere in 2016. The Jets, still with players like Stephen Bowen and T.J. Barnes behind the starters, can afford to make a move.
They are getting Stevan Ridley back at running back but on the whole, have a bunch of power backs (Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell) and tall receivers. No one who has that element of speed Archer brings. His on-field play has improved with the increasing chances he’s gotten, only increasing his value and no longer a hypothetical. There’s real evidence of progression. And the Jets need a boost in the return game. Their longest return of the year is just 31 yards. Zac Stacy isn’t cutting it.
At this point, you could probably trade Archer for Douzable straight up. No draft pick required. Or swing a 2017 6th rounder for Douzable. Whatever the combination, there’s no question a trade could be worked out.
If the Steelers want to be serious about their depth, a move has to be made. If they erroneously thought they were secure coming into the season with what sat behind Tuitt and Heyward, their rose-colored glasses had to have flown off Sunday.
Sure, the odds of an actual deal getting made are slim. The Steelers rarely make mid-season trades. But if Gil Brandt can suggest trading for Ronald Leary and moving David DeCastro to left tackle, I can suggest a comparatively much more milquetoast idea of getting a little stronger along the defensive line.