The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was very shortly after the 2016 season ended. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed, and, in a rarity, this actually applies to literally every position on the roster, including the quarterbacks and specialists.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 8
Cameron Heyward: Formerly their ironman, Heyward got banged up pretty good last season, but he is hungry to get back out there and be the cornerstone of the defense that he was before the injuries. He has more talent around him now upon his return.
Stephon Tuitt: Tuitt was forced to grow some out of Heyward’s shadow while the elder was on the sideline. He is extremely talented, but he has to play with more balance and discipline, finishing more tackles and converting more pressures into sacks.
L.T. Walton: In the running for most improved player on the roster, Walton really showed something late in the year during playing time with Heyward and Tuitt sidelined. While he has to figure out how to offer something in the pass rush, there’s a reason his coaches are pleased with his growth.
Tyson Alualu: In desperate need of rotational depth, the Steelers took action in free agency to lock up a piece like veteran Alualu. His presence should help keep their starters fresher later in games, and in the season as a whole.
Johnny Maxey: A small-school rookie free agent from a year ago, Maxey is going to push to make the 53-man roster from the get-go, and the team’s increased reliance on the nickel defense will help in that endeavor.
Francis Kallon: Kallon seems to be the most-hyped of the Steelers’ three UDFA defensive linemen. He got a bit of buzz during the spring, but that’s about all that can be said.
Christian Brown: Frankly haven’t heard much of anything on the other two, and as for Brown and Adams, both of them were listed as DTs but now are listed as DEs, so I’m listing them here, assuming that’s where they’re working.
Nelson Adams: Unfortunately, all three of these players seem to be below average athletes, or, in the case of Kallon, plays less athletic than he tests. Really not much to say about these guys right now.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
There isn’t a ton of excitement to look forward to in camp here. Seeing Heyward back in action will be nice, but he and Tuitt are obviously going to start. We didn’t see much of Alualu in the spring, so that will be kind of a first as well.
The most interesting thing for me here will be to monitor the development of Walton and Maxey. Walton needs to add a pass rush, but Maxey is looking to make a push for the roster. He’ll really need to earn it, otherwise it’s back to the practice squad.