2019 South Side Questions: Who Will Dress As 5th DL?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.

How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Who will dress as the Steelers’ fifth defensive lineman?

Questions are going to arise any time a major injury occurs, and unfortunately, the Steelers have another major injury on their hands, which is going to take some adjusting to. This time, it is a season-ending injury suffered by defensive end Stephon Tuitt, right in the midst of what had the makings of a career year.

We know that Tyson Alualu slides up to the starting group, at least in the 3-4 front, with Javon Hargrave seeing a healthy uptick in snaps when the Steelers are in nickel and other sub-packages with two defensive linemen. Daniel McCullers is still the number four and backup nose tackle. That doesn’t change.

What does change is who the other guy is. Isaiah Buggs, the rookie, spent the first six games on the inactive list. Even when the Steelers had six injured players on Sunday, he was the one inactive player who was actually healthy. That’s not the greatest sign.

Following Tuitt’s injury, the team signed L.T. Walton, who spent the past four years on the roster. A former sixth-round pick, his role in the rotation varied from relatively insignificant to completely irrelevant, barring the year in which Cameron Heyward went down and he had to play more.

Between Walton and Buggs, somebody has to dress and play a role. The Steelers want to continue to use a rotation, so somebody will have to be able to handle being on the field. I don’t know that the Steelers know right now which of the two that will be.

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