The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2019 season with only five defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, and afterward, Javon Hargrave left in free agency. Of course, one of the reasons there was a lack at the end of last season was because Stephon Tuitt was on injured reserve. But he’s back now, and they’ve also brought in Chris Wormley as a legitimate rotational player and depth piece to round out the group.
While we seemingly know who will be on the team this year—Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Wormley, Daniel McCullers, and Isaiah Buggs—there are other guys in the mix, including Henry Mondeaux, who spent last season on the practice squad, and Carlos Davis, this year’s seventh-round pick.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler seemingly referenced those guys within that second-level group multiple times when talking to reporters before practice yesterday. When asked about McCullers, he volunteered, “we’ve got some young guys that are coming up, too, that we’re taking a look at that we like, and we’ll see how they come along for our defensive line”.
Later on, at the end of the interview, he was specifically asked about Buggs, the second-year former sixth-round out of Alabama, who spent all of last season on the 53-man roster and did get some playing time after Tuitt went down. “Isaiah has done a pretty good job for us”, he said. But he wasn’t done.
“In terms of finding the depth that we need at the defensive line, I think we’ve got a couple of good prospects back there, so we’ll see”, he added. “We’ve got some young guys, too, that we like a little bit. I’m gonna remain nameless on those guys because I don’t want anybody to know about them, to be honest with you. We’ll see as we go along, but I feel good about that position right now”.
Of course we don’t get to see what’s going on in training camp, so we don’t know whom he might be referring to specifically, but there are only so many names on the 80-man roster. Mondeaux and Davis are the two most obvious. There’s also Calvin Taylor, an undrafted rookie, and Cavon Walker, who was signed from the XFL.
Last week, I read a comment from a member of the Green Bay Packers’ front office about the team’s training camp reporting restrictions this year. He said that pro scouts are reading pool reports this year, since that’s all they have to go on with no preseason games, looking for players to pick up.
While Mike Tomlin downplayed such notions—“I have no idea what’s going on in other cities, to be honest with you”, he said after Monday’s practice when asked about secrecy—it seems like a pretty obvious tactic for teams to be conservative with their reports this year.
Teams will have 16-man practice squads in 2020 in a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they’re going to want to try to assure that they get the 16 guys they want on there. The best way to make that happen is not to let others on to what you have in camp.