With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Position: Defensive Line
Up for Grabs: Depth
In the Mix: Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs, Carlos Davis, Henry Mondeaux, Calvin Taylor, Cavon Walker
So far, we have talked about the starting nose tackle position, as well as the backup nose tackle and the top backup defensive end. But there is still a lot to talk about as it concerns the makeup of the Steelers’ defensive line in 2020—including how many players they will keep.
It has been exceedingly rare that the Steelers have kept either five or seven linemen, almost always staying up with six, but rare exceptions have happened, and do happen. They played a good stretch of last season with only five, for example. This year, especially under the circumstances, they may consider carrying seven.
The following players are locks to make the team: Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley. Everybody else will at least have to compete for a roster spot, even if it is hard to picture Daniel McCullers not making the team due to the lack of depth at defensive tackle.
Isaiah Buggs was the sixth lineman last season (later the fifth due to injury), but he is not guaranteed a roster spot, and will be competing against the other players named above as being in the mix. That includes rookie seventh-round pick Carlos Davis, whom the team has said is capable of playing up and down the line, and is noted for his athleticism.
Henry Mondeaux spent all of last season on the practice squad, and showed up well during the preseason. Calvin Taylor is a mammoth, 6’9” rookie college free agent out of Kentucky, while Cavon Walker has been in a couple of training camps before. More recently, he had success as a pass rusher in the XFL.
Could we see the Steelers figure out a way to carry seven defensive linemen, now that there are more gameday helmets available, potentially allowing them to dress six instead of five? How many linemen will they keep on the practice squad? Those are the questions outstanding for the depth here as we get moving in training camp.