Of all the offseason acquisitions the Pittsburgh Steelers have made this year, defensive end Chris Wormley may be the least-talked about. Part of that is because he spent a good chunk of the only in-person portion of the offseason nursing an injury, though we did get an interview or two from him over the length of this process.
Entering his fourth season in the NFL after being traded for from the Baltimore Ravens, Wormley steps into a role in which, presumably, he will be viewed as the top backup defensive end behind Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, who will of course also play ‘tackle’ in their base nickel defense featuring two down linemen. But have they seen enough of him?
“I wish we had seen more, no doubt”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler confessed, via a transcript from the team’s media department. “Some things you can do something about, some things you can’t. And this is one of those things that we can’t do anything about”.
“We have seen enough that he should be able to help us and spell us at times with those two guys that we have inside”, he did say, mentioning that Tyson Alualu, listed as the starting nose tackle, will still play ‘end’ as well. “I think he will help us. We have to have somebody that is going to spell those other two guys in there and I think he will be a part of that rotation”.
The Steelers gave up a fifth-round pick for Wormley (and a seventh-round pick), but they were also put on the hook for a $2.233 million base salary for 2020, a product of his having unlocked the Proven Performance Escalator that for most rookies elevates his salary during the final year of his rookie contract.
One can only hope that they intend to have him in their plans beyond this one season, because if not, one season of play for a rotational defensive lineman, plus a seventh-round pick that will likely be a very late one, is a bit of a steep price for a fifth-round pick, especially when you consider the elevated salary.
Then there is the fact that he hasn’t even gotten the chance to do a lot of work with the team. He has admitted that it has been a transition, and has also noted that the Steelers place a greater emphasis on the pass rush for his position than he was used to in Baltimore, so that time lost on the practice field is valuable.
But we’ll find out on Monday night just what he looks like and how he can contribute. He is a veteran and he has plenty of quality tape out there for the role he will be asked to play. He shouldn’t need that much to get himself up and running, so I expect him to perform up to standard.