We started this series with less than two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed four of them, those being Le’Veon Bell, Justin Hunter, Stevan Ridley, and Daniel McCullers. The only unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere has been Chris Hubbard. They resigned nine exclusive rights or restricted free agents, from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Hilton to Chris Boswell and Roosevelt Nix.
Also of note were the released of William Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden, the three most veteran players in the secondary. The team has signed three outside free agents in Jon Bostic, Morgan Burnett, and Nat Berhe. Now we examine how these moves and their pre-draft hints shape their future based on position since the offseason has begun.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 3
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 0
Javon Hargrave: An immediate ‘starter’ as a rookie, Hargrave saw his playing time take a step forward this year to around the 400-45- snap range, spending more time on the field in the nickel. He got off to a hot start with a couple sacks in the first few games, but those are the only ones he would record. Still, he was a source of fairly consistent pressure and held his own against the run despite being a scapegoat for the run defense’s issues.
L.T. Walton: Walton leapfrogged McCullers for the backup defensive tackle job last year, which says more about McCullers I think than it does Walton. He makes more sense as an emergency nose tackle rather than the actual direct, even rotational, backup.
Daniel McCullers: In spite of constant warnings that they need to see more from him, the Steelers keep coming back to McCullers, who barely played last season and spent much of the year inactive. He was a bit of a surprise re-signing. The question is, will they draft competition for him?
Players Added: N/A
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook:
When talking about the defensive tackle position, the first thing you have to understand is that the nose tackle is now a sub-package position, with the ‘base’ nickel defensive tackle being 3-4 defensive ends, usually. So we can talk about the likes of Cameron Heyward here, whom the team now actually lists at defensive tackle.
We also have to consider Lavon Hooks in this role as well. He did play some defensive tackle for the Steelers in training camps and preseasons past. He is of a similar build to Hargrave, and actually slightly heavier.
With all that said, it’s really easy to feel that this position is earmarked for a late-round draft pick, and a guy like Josh Frazier just makes too much sense with all the dots to connect, including Karl Dunbar as their new defensive line coach, who coached Frazier in college. If he is available and they pass on him, that is a bad sign.