Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: L.J. Fort
Stock Value: Even
Evaluation Type: Minor, Short-Term
Reason: Quality of Reps
Things have been pretty status quo for L.J. Fort so far this summer. He spent the entire offseason so far running with the Steelers’ second-team defense, working the unit along with Jon Bostic. That doesn’t mean that he has a roster spot secured by any means, but things could be a lot worse for him.
Nobody really anticipated that the team would go through the entire 2018 NFL Draft without adding a single inside linebacker into the mix, but that is what happened, and make no mistake, that really helps out a veteran like him.
He did even earn some playing time late in the year after Ryan Shazier was injured, but we know that he is not in the team’s top three options at the position now behind Bostic, Vince Williams, and Tyler Matakevich. He will be in the running for that fourth role, or perhaps even a fifth if they keep that many.
His biggest challenger is likely rookie undrafted free agent Matthew Thomas, who according to reporters has gotten a lot of work, though with the third-team defense. 2017 undrafted players Matt Galambos and Keith Kelsey are also returning and hoping to make a run for a spot as well.
Fort is the veteran, of course, and has experience working both on defense and special teams. He even recorded a sack and a handful of passes defensed late in the year. Until proven otherwise, at least before we get to training camp, he should be viewed as inside the bubble for a spot on the team.
For one thing, he has been around for a long time. This is at least his fourth season spending time in the Steelers’ system, from memory, but he spent time with other teams going all the way back to 2012. I know people want to be excited about a guy like Thomas, but expectations for rookies should always be tempered, because they tend to come up short.