It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
The Steelers are likely to be subject to more change than they are used to this year, with 19 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, including numerous starters. Two other important players have retired, so there is more shuffling of the deck than normal in Pittsburgh.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 6
Cameron Heyward: Though he is officially regarded as a defensive tackle by technicality, the changeover was only done to better recognize him for awards season relative to the players he should be compared with as an interior defensive lineman. While his statistics were down somewhat this past season, Heyward continued to play at the very high level he has managed since his pectoral injury in 2016, making the Pro Bowl and earning second-team All-Pro recognition.
Stephon Tuitt: Tuitt finally had the breakout season we all knew was in him, finishing with 11 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles, with three batted passes. Still just 28 years old in May, he remains in the prime of his career, and can hopefully have better health fortunes from this point forward.
Chris Wormley: Acquired via trade last offseason, Wormley didn’t have much of a role in 2020 behind stalwarts in front of him, and when there were issues of availability that would have given him playing time, he himself was unavailable. A pending unrestricted free agent, he figures to come cheap at this point. He did play reasonably well when he was on the field.
Tyson Alualu: Though he moved to nose tackle last season, Alualu still spent time at end. The 2020 season was arguably his best, but that was primarily based on his play at nose tackle.
Henry Mondeaux: A first-year player who had spent time in camp with the Steelers before, Mondeaux became one of few defensive linemen to actually play on special teams coverage units. He was promoted from the practice squad as a seventh defensive lineman, which is very rare, and dressed over others. He also saw some defensive playing time.
Isaiah Buggs: A lot of that came at the expense of Buggs, a second-year former sixth-round pick around whom there had been some optimism. But just as much, he lost playing time to rookie Carlos Davis. Buggs was a healthy scratch for six games and had just 11 tackles across 122 snaps.
Other than shoring up depth, there is not a love of moves here. Obviously you want to re-sign Alualu. If he is cheap then you can bring back Wormley as well, but they like Mondeaux, and Buggs should be enough, along with Davis in the middle. If they don’t retain Wormley and/or Alualu, then it becomes a minor need to address on the cheap in free agency and the draft.