With the 2018 season completely in the books and 2019 staring us down just around the corner, it’s time to pause and take stock of the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers by looking at their roster as it stands now, going position by position.
The new league year officially begins on March 13, and coincides with the start of free agency. Between now and then, the Steelers figure to make a couple more decisions about what the roster will look like, including the signing of a couple more of their pending unrestricted free agents. There are a few other loose ends to tie up before then as well.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 6
Cameron Heyward: Technically speaking, Heyward is now formally classified as a defensive tackle, and practically speaking, that is generally what he plays now that the Steelers’ base package is their nickel—or even dime. But in the 3-4 front, Heyward is at end. And he remains very good. His eight sacks in 2018 were second only to the 12 he had the year before
Stephon Tuitt: It always seems as though Tuitt has more to give than he is giving. Still, 2018 was one of his better seasons, and that had a lot to do with the fact that he did the best he has ever done in finishing plays, both in the pass rush and against the run. He will forever be primed for a big season just because he is that type of athlete.
Tyson Alualu: Alualu has been a valuable number three here, which is why the team just re-signed him for two more years. He doesn’t offer a lot as a pass rusher, but he retains his discipline, which is an asset in all facets. He’s arguably their best run defender.
L.T. Walton: The former sixth-round pick went backwards last year, spending most of the season on the inactive list. He has had some success in years prior as a traditional 3-4 end—and mixed success at the nose—but his limitations suggest that he won’t be re-signed.
Lavon Hooks: A practice squad ‘veteran’ at this point, Hooks had a good preseason last year that allowed him to stay around. One might argue, though, that if he was going to make the jump, it would have been made by now.
Conor Sheehy: The Wisconsin product was a teammate of T.J. Watt’s in college. A sub-par athlete for today’s game, he is modeled very much like a traditional 3-4 end. He went undrafted last season and spent time with the Packers through the preseason, signing to a futures contract with the Steelers in January.
Offseason Strategy: Look to free agency, draft to find rotational pass rusher.
The Steelers could really benefit to add somebody else to the mix who is capable of rushing the passer other than Heyward and Tuitt, which is something that they have been lacking for—a very long time. Brett Keisel was their last capable rushing defensive end, whose last season was in 2014, before Tuitt was a full-time starter. The likes of Walton, Hooks, and Sheehy are not that.