Missing Pieces 2016: DE Clifton Geathers

Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp a bit under a month from now, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.

Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.

The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2015 to 2016, which seems to be increasingly common for them in recent years.

Unlike the rest of the players on this list, defensive end Clifton Geathers never even got an opportunity to play a down for the Steelers, in spite of the fact that he spent over a year with the team, though only five of those weeks came with him on the 53-man roster. He is being included because he was officially a Steelers free agent this offseason after spending the year on injured reserve.

Geathers was originally signed as a street free agent in 2014 after he was released by the Redskins. He was brought in due to the fact that the Steelers were down a man after Brett Keisel suffered an arm injury that ended his season. Geathers was previously considered in free agency before they signed Cam Thomas instead.

Still, he never dressed while on the 53-man roster, for the final four preseason games and the Wildcard game in which they lost, though he did seemingly show enough in practice, including drawing the ire of the offensive linemen, for defensive line coach John Mitchell to request of the front office that they re-sign him.

Re-sign him they did, but by the time the offseason rolled on to training camp in Latrobe, his tenure there was a brief one, as he ended up being placed on injured reserve before the Steelers even got to their first preseason game. The nature of his being placed on the season-ending list is still unclear, though it has been suggested that it was due not to an injury but a chronic condition.

Leading up to that point, it was generally assumed that Geathers was favored to make the roster, and that the final roster spot would be decided between Thomas and sixth-round rookie L.T. Walton, but both of them ended up making the roster in his absence.

Geathers remains a free agent, and the Steelers did not re-sign Thomas. Walton is expected to expand his role in his second season, but in the meantime, Pittsburgh is hoping that new free agent signing Ricardo Mathews can churn out a few hundred snaps or so for them, particularly serving as a nickel pass rusher.

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