2019 Training Camp Battles: Defensive Line Depth

It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first deep breaths of the 2019 NFL season.

Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and trades to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.

And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.

Position: Defensive Line

Up for Grabs: Depth

In the Mix: Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs, Lavon Hooks, Casey Sayles, Greg Gilmore, The Field

The Steelers could have an interesting group of talent at the back end of their defensive line depth chart this summer. Or they could have a bunch of guys who are just not very good, practice squad-level performers at best.

That is what they are going to have to determine over the course of the next several weeks, as the only player listed above who has ever spent time on the 53-man roster is Daniel McCullers, and he has only just barely been hanging onto his spot, perhaps primarily due to a lack of meaningful competition.

At the very least, however, he ought to enter training camp as one of the favorites to win—in his case to retain—a roster spot. To his credit, he did have the best summer of his career in 2018, though it didn’t really translate into much success, let alone playing time, during the regular season.

McCullers has alternated between being a primary backup and a gameday healthy scratch over the course of his career, and if a player like Buggs or Hooks can come along, show that he can handle some defensive tackle snaps, and offer something as a pass rusher, he could go back to the bench.

Somebody has to step up though, and of this group, McCullers remains the only one who clearly profiles as an interior lineman. the aforementioned might be able to offer that flexibility, but it has to be shown, and it would come at the expense of some size.

Casey Sayles and Greg Gilmore are a pair of young defensive ends who were in camp last year and who got some playing time in the AAF earlier in 2019. How that opportunity translates to the fields of Saint Vincent College will be something to watch. They more realistically could be competing for a spot on the practice squad, but anything is possible.

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