The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: L.T. Walton
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 1 Year
With the Steelers in critical need of depth along the defensive line, they chose to address the concern in the 2015 NFL Draft—in the sixth round, with the selection of L.T. Walton. Of course, they had several other needs throughout the defense, and a couple of ‘wants’ on the offensive side of the ball as well, so not everything can be addressed as a priority.
The Steelers did retain all six defensive linemen that they finished the season with, albeit one of them never actually played a snap for the team—last season or this past season. But the point is that it wasn’t absolutely critical that they get a few hundred snaps out of Walton, as should pretty much go without saying.
It wasn’t even assured of course that he would make the 53-man roster, which is not out of the ordinary for late sixth-round draft picks, but through the entire offseason process, he did make it, performing representatively in the preseason to instill confidence in his coaches that he at least knew, for the most part, what he was doing.
Part of the reason that he made the 53-man roster was due to injury, but the reality is that the Steelers did very little during the offseason outside of drafting him to make an effort to bolster the defensive line depth, and as a result, they had their starting linemen, when healthy, playing an obscene percentage of snaps.
Walton, in fact, spent most of the season on the inactive list as the team’s sixth defensive lineman, the Steelers choosing to dress only five. All six of the games for which he dressed corresponded to a game in which one of the team’s top five defensive linemen were sitting out with an injury.
He only played a couple of dozen snaps in total over the course of the season, from which not much of a conclusion can be drawn. The snaps were a mixture of 3-4 defensive end work as well as defensive tackle snaps in the nickel, often facing quick-release passes at the end of halves.
As a late-round pick with minimal experience, his future is uncertain. I think the odds may be in his favor to make the roster, depending on how the Steelers go about addressing the defensive line depth, but beyond that, the level of his contributions is unclear.