The 2017 season is over and in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up far short of their goal. While they had a regular season record of 13-3, they went 0-1 in the postseason, and that will be the legacy of this previous campaign.
The task at hand is working toward improving that postseason record and assuring that it has a zero in the loss column instead of the win column. We can take a position-by-position look at how they can work toward that goal based on their personnel.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 5
Cameron Heyward: Certainly as a pass rusher, Cameron Heyward had a career year, not just posting 12 sacks, but consistently gaining pressure—except in the postseason game, though the Jaguars did not pass much and frequently did so off of play action when they did.
That said, he was rightly named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro, having the sort of year we knew he had in him. He has played better against the run, and deserves some share of the blame, but the issues in the run defense were too numerous to peg on any one player.
Stephon Tuitt: Stephon Tuitt might actually be the single most talented player on the entire roster, all things considered. He has the capability of individually dominating players I think more than any other player on the team, and it does frequently show, but it doesn’t always lead to production. He is exceptionally skilled, but needs to convert more opportunities into results, and be more disciplined.
Tyson Alualu: As it turned out, Tyson Alualu was a pretty big signing in free agency, in large part for the role that he played in filling in for Tuitt while he was injured. He didn’t often offer much in the way of rushing the passer (his career-high four sacks are deceiving), he was a stout run defender and a source of discipline on the field, a player you didn’t have to worry about. He has never missed a game due to injury in his career.
L.T. Walton: It would be in everybody’s best interests if the Steelers can find a better backup nose tackle than Daniel McCullers, because the end result has been pigeonholing L.T. Walton into that role, and it is not his most successful. He was blown away filling in for Javon Hargrave in the playoffs. That does him a disservice because he is capable of playing the defensive tackle role in sub-packages, or as a run stopper end in the 3-4 front.
Lavon Hooks: You probably know this name by now. Lavon Hooks has been around for a couple of years, never on a roster, but on the practice squad. He is back for another year.
Offseason Strategy: Stay Put
This is the rare position for the Steelers this offseason that is not screaming for an upgrade. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are entrenched starters, while Tyson Alualu is a very good rotational reserve. Bolstering the nose tackle position would serve Walton well, additionally. Value would have to be very good for a move here to make sense. You may see Darnell Leslie listed as a DE on the team’s roster (Heyward is listed as a DT), but he is an OLB.