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2016 Steelers Pre-Free Agency Positional Review: Defensive End

We’re now into March, and that means that the new league year will be upon us shortly, and when that time comes, the floodgates to free agency will open—not that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be major players when it comes to signing outside free agents, as they tend to keep themselves busy in retaining their own players.

But before we get to that period, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ offseason roster as it appears to be shaping up as we hit the start of the new league year, at which time the team will have a couple of dozen players hitting the open market.

As with every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, while also making some deletions after they waived a handful of players, so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into free agency.

Position: Defensive End

Total Positional Figure: 6

Additions: 0

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

Cameron Heyward: Cameron Heyward’s resume pretty much speaks for itself. Through five seasons in the league, he has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive end for the Steelers who is versatile enough to enable them to play in sub-packages heavily, recording about 20 sacks over the past three seasons.

Stephon Tuitt: In his second season, Stephon Tuitt came into his own in a major way, just as the team needed him to, solidifying himself as a quality starting defensive end. He recorded 6.5 sacks in spite of missing two games due to injury and was also a strong run defender.

Cam Thomas: Signed during the 2014 offseason when the Steelers suffered an exodus along the line, Cam Thomas proved to be worth less than the contract he was given. He saw less than 200 snaps last year in total, even with Tuitt missing two games. It would be pretty surprising if he is brought back, and it will likely mean they failed to address the position as they need to.

L.T. Walton: Coming off an awfully uneventful rookie season limited to a couple dozen snaps, L.T. Walton’s future contributions and capability are a mystery.

Caushaud Lyons: Caushaud Lyons, an undrafted rookie free agent claimed off waivers, was on the 53-man roster for a couple of games before being moved to the practice squad. We really know nothing about him. All we know is they need to find depth somewhere. At least he has enticing measurements.

Clifton Geathers: Originally signed late in the 2014 season as an injury replacement, Clifton Geathers was hoped to be a factor in 2015 as depth, but he landed on injured reserve before we even got to the preseason. It’s unclear if there is much if any interest in retaining him, or if he would be able to play.

Offseason Strategy: The Steelers have excellent starters, but the depth behind them is highly suspect and has forced them to work their starters to the bone. The draft this season is rich and deep in defensive line talent and may be best addressed there, considering how expensive the free agent market is shaping up to be. But if they find a fit that makes sense financially, that may be their big ‘splash’ outside of the organization.

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