Putting together a team is by no means solely nor primarily about what you are able to add to the group year in and year out. More than anything, it’s about the pieces that you are able to keep together for a period of years, acquiring talent and giving them the structure to develop together into a cohesive unit.
By and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers do this better than most, and they return among the most snaps from the 2019 season as they head into this year, but they have still lost some significant players from a year ago, some of whom have been with the team for a while, like Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and others.
Now that we’ve introduced you to all of the new faces that the Steelers have added to the team since the end of last season, it’s time to take stock of who is gone since then, and what their departure—whether by the team’s will or not—will impact their success or failure in 2020 and beyond.
Player: DL L.T. Walton
Years Played: 5 (5 in Pittsburgh)
Snaps Played: 0 (480 career)
Originally drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, L.T. Walton carved out a decent enough career for himself, managing to last the better part of five seasons in the NFL. Plenty of players don’t make it that long. But by the time his rookie contract was up, the Steelers showed no interest in him.
In fact, Walton remained available as a free agent last offseason until June when the Buffalo Bills finally signed him. He did not make their 53-man roster, and so remained unsigned yet again until the Steelers brought him back in the middle of November, in order to take over the roster spot that was opened when Stephon Tuitt was injured and moved to injured reserve.
In spite of the fact that he had four years of experience in the system and nearly 500 snaps played during that time, however, the Steelers instead turned to rookie sixth-round pick Isaiah Buggs to step in and take on the few snaps needed of the number five defensive lineman.
In actuality, Walton only wound up spending six weeks on the roster, including the bye week, because he suffered an injury during practice and was placed on injured reserve. For the first time that I can ever recall, the Steelers didn’t even bother signing or promoting another lineman, finishing out the rest of the season (something like six or seven games if memory serves) with just five defensive linemen.
After the season ended, the Steelers did not retain their former sixth-round pick, nor has any other team shown interest in him. It’s not clear if he is actively pursuing an opportunity with any teams at this time, but either way, his days in the NFL may well be over.