The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: L.J. Fort
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 3 Years
We have still got one last linebacker to get through before we finally turn things over to the secondary to wrap up our exit meeting series for the year. Last on the list is L.J. Fort, who at one point last season appeared to be the top of the depth chart behind the starters.
Fort was the first inside linebacker to enter the game when an injury occurred in the season opener. He spent all of the offseason running with the second-team unit along with Vince Williams as the only other player who spent time with the Steelers the year before, most of it on the practice squad.
Yet by late in the season he was clearly on the bottom of the depth chart, because when the Steelers needed an open position, they chose to release Fort. An injury opened a spot back up for him and resulted in him being re-signed, but he wasn’t a meaningful contributor.
Fort made four tackles in the first five weeks, presumably all on special teams, though the first tackle may have come in his brief time on defense. After that, he didn’t record another statistic. He was even a healthy scratch for two games that he was on the roster, including the AFC Championship game.
With the departure of Lawrence Timmons, however, Fort’s value could increase, because among all the inside linebackers remaining on the roster, the Steelers respect his ability in coverage over all except for Ryan Shazier.
Fort can profile more as a mack contributor, making him the only obvious candidate to fill in for Shazier. After all, he ran with Williams on the second-team defense, and filled the role of the mack.
The third-year veteran has recorded a pass defensed in each of the past two preseasons with the Steelers. He registered 21 total tackles in the 2016 preseason, including 10 in the final game to help ensure his spot on the roster.
Still, his roster spot is obviously anything but secure. There’s a good chance the Steelers add a significant piece to the competition here in the draft.