Devil’s Advocate: Opportunities For L.T. Walton

L.T. Walton

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will third-year defensive end L.T. Walton earn a consistent game-day helmet in 2017 after improving last year?

It’s not incredibly often that a late-round draft pick develops into a significant contributor to a team, at least by the percentages, but the Steelers have fared reasonably well—albeit not among the absolute best—in that regard over the years.

2015 sixth-round draft pick L.T. Walton would seem to be the latest addition to their collection of late-round contributors, as the young player was thrust into the spotlight due to injury in the second half of last season.

He represented himself well in the running game, but struggled to offer much as a pass rusher. And ultimately, the bottom line is that the Steelers traditionally only dress five defensive linemen. That means three defensive ends and two nose tackles, generally.

The Steelers signed Tyson Alualu to be their third defensive end this year, and one would think that he is higher on the depth chart than Walton. He has spent the majority of his career on the inactive list because of the depth chart, only dressing when injuries have factored into the equation.

But it’s not impossible that they could dress six linemen, especially if they are serious about exercising a greater rotation there, which would make sense given the injuries to their starters last year and the snaps they have been asked to play.

An additional consideration is the potentiality of either Alualu or even Walton himself developing into a backup nose tackle the way that Al Woods did. In that event, the Steelers could get away with dressing four defensive ends and leaving Daniel McCullers on the bench, assuming he makes the roster.

Walton is actually listed at the same weight as Javon Hargrave and they are comfortable with his ability to play the nose. And he has shown the capacity to play the run well, which would be his main task at the nose. But the fact that Hargrave also plays in the nickel, and could even play at end in the 3-4 if necessary, could also hurt Walton’s chances of dressing regularly. There are a lot of things to consider, and it’s only April.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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