The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: L.T. Walton
Position: Defensive Line
Experience: 3 Years
A 2015 sixth-round draft pick, L.T. Walton has generally done well for himself over the course of the past two seasons. His initial chance came in 2016 thanks to Cameron Heyward’s injury, followed by an injury to Ricardo Mathews, which gave him an opportunity to make an impression in his second season.
While he didn’t offer much in the way of a pass rush, his run defense caught the coaches’ attention, and this past offseason, they gave him the opportunity to work at the nose tackle position. In fact, they pretty much shoehorned him into the role, leapfrogging Daniel McCullers and thus passing him on the depth chart.
McCullers was the backup nose tackle in 2016 after handily losing the competition for the starting job against then-rookie Javon Hargrave. Then he lost the backup job the following year to Walton, who was drafted as a defensive end. Not great for him, but great for the latter.
Still, Walton’s greatest asset is not what he does at any one position but rather the fact that he can play all the positions along the defensive line. He can play either defensive end or nose tackle in the 3-4 front, or he can play defensive tackle in the base nickel. This is how they talked about McCullers when he was drafted, but he never developed into that player.
The question with Walton, however, is how much more room he has to develop. Is he already the best player that he is going to be in the NFL? Given that he is still working to learn the nose tackle position, hopefully he can at least make some strides there, as he had his struggles, especially in the playoff loss.
He could even come in this offseason at a heavier weight for all we know to focus more on his interior defensive line assignments, the way that Steve McLendon once did. He is entering an important year with his contract expiring after the 2018 season, so if he wants to stay on board, he has to continue to contribute.