2017 Camp Questions: Is Pass Rush Still A Priority With L.T. Walton Playing On The Nose?

The journey toward the 2017 season is now in full swing with the Pittsburgh Steelers having reported to Latrobe for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their camps for over half a century now.

This is surely the time more than any other in which we find ourselves full of questions that we are looking to get answered, and this also tends to be the best time to get answers to those questions that have been building up over the course of time since the 2016 season ended.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the training camp and the preseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: With L.T. Walton logging so many snaps at nose tackle, are they less concerned about his pass-rush advancement?

As it seems that fourth-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers is in serious danger of losing his roster spot in 2017, the Steelers are gearing up to find alternative options at the backup nose tackle position. As a result, third-year defensive lineman L.T. Walton has been spending quite a bit of the early portions of training camp working with the second-team defense in that role.

Walton was thrust into a prominent role by the end of last season due to a culmination of injuries. Cameron Heyward was the first to go down, which got him into the rotation. Stephon Tuitt and then even Ricardo Mathews suffered further ailments, which resulted in the former sixth-round pick essentially starting for a short period of time.

He played well and earned praise from his teammates and coaches, but critiques were reserved for his lack of impact as a pass-rusher. And in truth it is not known if this is an area of his game that will ever be able to show significant improvement.

Walton strikes me as more of an old-fashioned 3-4 defensive end with primary run-defense responsibilities. If the intention here is to convert him into a versatile reserve in the Chris Hoke vein that will make him the backup nose tackle while also playing other roles, then perhaps his pass-rushing ability can take a back seat.

With Heyward and Tuitt back in action, Javon Hargrave locked in at the nose, and Tyson Alualu having been brought in to be the rotational end, there isn’t a lot of meat left on the bone for playing time, no matter who the fifth man is.

But if it’s Walton, somebody who can line up anywhere, but who may chiefly be asked to take snaps at nose tackle and defensive tackle in the nickel, then that would seem to be a better option for both himself and the team.

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