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.J. Fort
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 1 Year
Althought L.J. Fort is technically a second-year player, he was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Browns in 2012. He played in 16 games for Cleveland that season, which included starting the opener, and receiving defensive playing time in a few other games, recording 20 tackles, a sack, an interception, and three passes defensed.
But his primary body of work came on special teams, which should not be surprising when you consider the fact that he is an undersized player for the position of inside linebacker. At 6’0” and a listed 230 pounds, he is proportionally very similar to Sean Spence, but never had the same background that helped him overcome critiques about his size.
There is not a lot to Fort’s story between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. He was not retained following his rookie season, and was signed as a Reserve/Future player by the Broncos in 2013, but did not make the team and spent the year out of football. He spent some time on the Seahawks’ practice squad in 2014, and one game on the roster.
He then spent the offseason with the Bengals before joining the Patriots early in training camp last season. He was released in mid-August and the Steelers brought him in a day later. He participated in a few preseason games for them and made an immediate impact, which included a sack.
The Steelers were impressed enough to keep him around in spite of the fact that they already had five inside linebackers on the 53-man roster, holding him as not just a sixth inside linebacker on the practice squad, but a 12th linebacker overall. I think it should go without stating that that is a tremendous amount of linebackers, even for Pittsburgh.
But by the end of the season, all of those linebackers did indeed finish their time on the 53-man roster. Fort was promoted from the practice squad prior to the season finale for special teams purposes following an injury, although he was not active for that game.
He did receive a game day helmet for the Steelers’ Divisional round game, and he did participate on special teams. Although he did not record a statistic, he represented himself well in that capacity.
Considering that Spence and Terence Garvin are busy taking free agent visits, one would think that if the team does not address the inside linebacker depth during the offseason, Fort would have a strong opportunity to step in and fill that void on the 53-man roster.