The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped things up in minicamp and put an end to their spring practices, which means that we are officially into the dead zone, the slowest time of the year for football news and general activity, the time between the end of spring drills in mid-June to the opening of training camps in late July.
Before we get there, we are going to take a look at how the team’s roster has evolved since prior to the draft, the last time that we broke down the Steelers by position, and obviously a lot has changed since they have fleshed out their 90-man roster.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 7
Cameron Heyward: Entering his sixth season, Cameron Heyward may very well be the heart and soul of the Steelers’ defense at this point. Once again, he led the team in sacks with seven last season and forced a fumble against the Ravens. As good as he is in his own right, it is the intangibles and leadership that help to set him apart.
Stephon Tuitt: Stephon Tuitt seems very much to be following in Heyward’s footsteps, only at an accelerated pace, because he already became an accomplished full-time starter in his second second. In fact, he was just behind Heyward with 6.5 sacks, and his work in the run game, particularly late in the year, impressed me.
Ricardo Mathews: Behind Heyward and Tuitt, however, is a complete mess, and they are hoping bargain bin free agent Ricardo Mathews can at least take up some snaps. Mathews has been primarily a sub-package player, which is what the Steelers now primarily run. Without much behind him, he figures to be close to a lock to make the roster.
L.T. Walton: It would be a big deal to get some development and production out of second-year L.T. Walton, a sixth-round pick in 2015. He contributed very little as a rookie and spent most of the year inactive, but that tends to be the norm for Steelers rookie defensive linemen.
Caushaud Lyons: Caushaud Lyons was claimed off waivers after final cuts as an undrafted rookie free agent. He spent most of the year on the practice squad, but we haven’t heard about him since. He is an intriguing physical specimen, but he may be just that and nothing more. It would be nice to hear something about him.
Giorgio Newberry: An undrafted free agent rookie out of Florida State, Giorgio Newberry is hoping to make a push for the 53-man roster after playing for one of the best college teams in recent years. He fits the profile for a Steelers end.
Johnny Maxey: So does Maxey, who also signed right after the draft after his agent said the Steelers are a fit. A small-school player, he most likely has the longest odds of sticking.
Notes and Camp Outlook: Really the only thing to look forward to is to see what sort of depth the team has behind Heyward and Tuitt, because we pretty much already know what those two are capable of. Of paramount interest will be how they perform in two-down-linemen looks, since that is primarily what the Steelers now run.