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: ILB L.J. Fort
Stock Value: Even
It’s hard to say, really, just where to place L.J. Fort, who despite being around since 2012 and at the age of 27 is actually only regarded as a third-year player. He accrued a season over 16 games as a rookie with the Browns, but it was not until last season with the Steelers in which he spent almost all of the year on the 53-man roster that he accrued a second season.
With a player like Fort, who has kicked around to so many different places over a period of so many years, it’s simply hard to get a read on them. While they have struggled to stay in one place, they have continued to get opportunities.
This year, given the movements on and off the roster, it’s really hard to say just where he stands in the pecking order. The fact that the Steelers lost a starter at his position would obviously play in his favor in terms of making it back onto the roster, as a starting point.
The team did not add anybody else to try to replace that loss, so that’s one less player that Fort has to worry about, but this is also a deeper roster that may not be able to carry five inside linebackers, and there is good reason to believe that he is number five right now.
I think it’s relatively clear at this point that Tyler Matakevich is probably going to be the number three inside linebacker this season, and has the most secure roster spot after leading the team in special-teams tackles as a rookie last year.
Behind him is also Steven Johnson. Johnson spent some of his early time on the roster inactive, but once he got a helmet he had a huge impact on special teams. After a while, when a roster spot was needed, Fort was released. But then Johnson suffered a season-ending injury and Fort was re-signed.
With Johnson being re-signed, he figures to be Fort’s primary competition for potentially a fourth-and-final roster spot, but it’s possible all five are kept as well. Even though Johnson has more defensive history, though, they seemed less inclined to give him an opportunity to play on defense, so that could be something to consider as well.