The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up fortieth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of inside linebacker L.J. Fort.
Intro: Fort opened the 2016 regular season on the Steelers 53-man roster as a backup inside linebacker and special teams player and remained on it through the bye week. After being waived in the middle of the season, Fort was quickly re-signed after fellow Steelers linebacker and special teams contributor Steven Johnson suffered a season ending ankle injury in the game against the Dallas Cowboys. He remained on the roster through the end of the season and in total, registered four tackles, with two coming on defense and two more on special teams.
Current Strengths: Gritty player willing to do anything to help team. Can drop into coverage effectively in zone looks. Has shown to be a capable special teamer whose athleticism helps him be one of the first players downfield. Good hand use to stay clean and work off blocks on coverage unit. Minor versatility; mostly a Mack linebacker but played some on the EDGE when first arrived at training camp. Experienced. Versatile on coverage units.
Current Weaknesses: Seemed to fall out of favor early last season. Not strongest at the point of attack. Limited work as an actual linebacker and most value will come only on special teams. Not a special pass rusher off the edge or rushing from the interior.
2017 Outlook: Fort is not a lock to make the roster this year out of training camp as a reserve inside linebacker. His special teams play, however, should at least have him as a serious contender. Should he ultimately win a roster spot, he’s unlikely to see much playing time on defense once again.
2017 Base Salary: $615,000
2017 Salary Cap Charge: $615,000
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: No games missed last season due to injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 42 of 1,046
2016 Stat That Matters: 207 total special teams snaps