With the Pittsburgh Steelers having lost their starting 3-4 defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave, as an unrestricted free agent, it is understandable that many wondered whether or not the team envisioned the new player they brought in as possibly taking over that role in even a limited capacity.
After Hargrave signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year deal worth $39 million, the Steelers worked out a trade with the Baltimore Ravens to acquire fourth-year defensive lineman Chris Wormley in exchange for a future fifth-round draft pick. He has been a key part of their rotation along the line over the past two years, but became expendable with the additions of Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers Derek Wolfe.
According to general manager Kevin Colbert, however, the Steelers did not bring in Wormley to address that void. He first singled out the fact that they envision him having a role in the team’s sub-packages, or their nickel and dime defenses, which typically goes to ends.
“He’ll be able to provide us play from the inside in the nickel,” he told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In base, my assumption is he’ll still be used as a defensive end, but if we have two defensive tackles on the field, he would be one of those in sub-packages”.
Currently, the Steelers only have one defensive tackle on the roster, and that is seventh-year veteran Daniel McCullers, who has fluctuated between being a vulnerable healthy scratch to receiving only a limited amount of playing time, failing to reach even 200 snaps in any one season. He has 605 for his career.
Outside of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, the remaining linemen on the roster of note are Tyson Alaulu and second-year Isaiah Buggs. While they have talked about the position versatility of each when first acquired, to date, neither of them have been asked to demonstrate said flexibility.
Since the acquisition of Wormley, I could not help but wonder if the Steelers will change course and ask Buggs to bulk up with an idea toward shifting him into an interior player, or at least an interior-capable player in the mold of a Steve McLendon or Chris Hoke.
Earlier in the offseason, he told the team’s website that the training staff wanted him to keep his weight where it was, which was lower than where he played in college during his rookie season because they had him at end.
It’s hard to imagine the team won’t address the defensive tackle position at some point before the season, perhaps during the draft, which is what they did after they lost McLendon in free agency, signing Hargrave. Failing that, McCullers would be their starting nose tackle, and I don’t even know who would be the backup.