We started this series with a little over 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 2020 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had eight primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed only one of them, that being Bud Dupree on the franchise tag. Unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere were Javon Hargrave, B.J. Finney, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich, Nick Vannett, and Artie Burns. They re-signed a number exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly Matt Feiler and Mike Hilton, as well as Zach Banner, Kameron Canaday, and Jordan Dangerfield on non-tender one-year deals. The deals of Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey, Chris Boswell, and Vance McDonald were all restructured.
Also of note were the releases of Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Johnny Holton, and Roosevelt Nix, and the retirement of Ramon Foster, as well as three significant signings in free agency, adding a new fullback in Roosevelt Nix, a potential starting lineman in Stefen Wisniewski, and a new tight end in Eric Ebron.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 7
Offseason Additions: 2
Offseason Deletions: 0
Cameron Heyward: The Steelers list Heyward as a tackle in an effort to help him get Pro Bowls, but in a base 3-4, he is an end who moves to tackle in their predominant sub-package. But we don’t call T.J. Watt as defensive end, so we’re not calling Heyward a tackle. Meanwhile, he remains one of the best defensive ends in the league, by the way.
Stephon Tuitt: And as he showed through five games last year, Tuitt is right alongside Heyward in terms of talent and ability, amazingly enough. The only thing that has been robbing him of truly breaking out has been his health.
Tyson Alualu: Alualu turns 33 in less than a month. He’s been here for three years but is now on the final year of his contract. Will he play beyond this year? That remains to be seen, but he has been a very quality reserve.
Isaiah Buggs: A sixth-round pick a year ago, Buggs flashed some in the preseason, enough to earn him a roster spot. After Tuitt’s injury, he got some playing time, but not much. Whether or not he has a defensive role in 2020 is yet to be determined, but the acquisition of Chris Wormley makes that unlikely unless it’s inside.
Henry Mondeaux: After spending all season on the practice squad, Mondeaux returns for another offseason—such that there will be one—but at best, it’s likely he winds up back there.
Chris Wormley: A former third-round pick, the Steelers acquired him (and a seventh-rounder) from the Ravens for a third-round pick. While he only has one pass-rush move, he is a quality run defender who fits the Alualu mold with perhaps more upside. The biggest drawback is that he only has one year on his deal.
Dewayne Hendrix: One of so far six XFL signings from the Steelers, a Pitt alum, he spent the 2019 preseason with the Dolphins, registering nine tackles and three sacks with two forced fumbles. With the BattleHawks, he registered four tackles and a sack over five games.
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook:
There is no reason to think the Steelers will be moving at this spot at all. The addition of Wormley, assuming they are able to keep him beyond this year, insulates them against Alualu’s aging, and Buggs remains an ascending young player they control for three years. The only questions are when Heyward will be extended and if Tuitt will play 16 games.