With the 2017 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 certain 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, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: DL L.T. Walton
Stock Value: Up
It would be unwise to read too much into something that we learn in OTAs, but my ears certainly perked up when I read that the Steelers had used third-year defensive end L.T. Walton with the first-team defense yesterday during practice while Javon Hargrave remains out.
It goes without saying that the former sixth-round pick took major steps forward last season, but if he is able to expand his versatility and prove that he can function even in a limited capacity as a 3-4 nose tackle, then that would greatly increase not just his value on the 53-man roster, but on game day.
While doing the math on paper, it’s certainly quite conceivable to make up a game-day roster in which Walton is logically on the sidelines in sweatpants. The Steelers typically dress five linemen, and they added Tyson Alualu to be the fourth player at defensive end, so one would think that the fifth lineman would be a nose tackle—and that would generally have to be Daniel McCullers.
Now, it doesn’t mean much necessarily that Walton took first-team reps while McCullers worked primarily with the second team. Sometimes those things happen by coaches’ choice. According to Jim Wexell, in a practice in which William Gay recently sat out team drills, the coaches rewarded third-team slot cornerback Mike Hilton with first-team reps over Senquez Golson. That doesn’t mean he is higher on the depth chart, however, such that there is one in June.
But it does mean, at the very least, that the coaches want to get a good look at Walton in terms of how he looks at the position, and while doing so with a comparable group around him. He has already been logging first-team snaps at defensive end due to injuries, and he also had starts a year ago as an injury fill—n.
How much this will mean come September really remains to be seen entirely, but as for right now, in June, it is reason to buy into his stock with the hope that it continues to rise. That sort of versatility can sure him a helmet the way it did for Al Woods, who similarly accomplished nose-tackle flexibility as a defensive end.