With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: L.T. Walton
Stock Value: Even
The Steelers entered the offseason knowing consciously that they wanted to do something to address the workload concerns of their thoroughbred defensive ends, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, who at their peak were on pace to log over 90 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last year. That was not by design, but rather a product of the dearth of capable rotational options.
But they also didn’t do a lot to address their needs. While they allowed the underperforming Cam Thomas to walk in free agency, they replaced him with the meager talents of Ricardo Mathews. They lost a quality starting nose tackle in Steve McLendon and replaced him with a small-school rookie in Javon Hargrave.
Nothing that the Steelers did this offseason would seem to serve the function of knowing second-year L.T. Walton off the roster, which is where he spent the entirety of his rookie season last year, even if he was only active for five games and logged just a few dozen snaps’ worth of playing time.
Pittsburgh knows that they need to get more out of their reserve defensive linemen, and Walton is one of those reserve linemen that it appears they are going to have to afford the opportunity to step up their game this year. Walton is even a player that Heyward mentioned by name as one that they were counting on stepping up this year.
But the plan, such that there is a plan this early in the offseason, is likely to see Mathews and Hargrave as the two players that are the primary rotational players to spell Heyward and Tuitt as rush defensive tackles in their nickel defense, which is their primary package.
Walton still figures to be the sixth defensive lineman on the roster, behind nose tackle Daniel McCullers, and that means that he figures to still spend a lot of his time as a game day inactive. While he has a clear avenue toward a spot on the 53-man roster, his pathway to playing time is far more obscure.
That is exactly the situation that he found himself in last year, and so, thus far, his value has remained static. He would likely have to beat out Mathews as the primary reserve defensive end and nickel defensive tackle in order to raise his position and get a helmet on game day, but I will have to see that form myself before buying in.