We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 starters or primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed only five of them, those being JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Sutton, Zach Banner, Tyson Alualu, and Jordan Berry. They re-signed a number exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly Robert Spillane and J.C. Hassenauer, while signing Ray-Ray McCloud to a non-tender deal.
The deals of Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward, Derek Watt, and Eric Ebron were restructured, while those of Steven Nelson and Vince Williams were terminated, the latter being re-signed. Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald retired.
Of note, the Steelers have added five players as unrestricted or street agents from outside of the organization, including three offensive linemen in Joe Haeg, Rashaad Coward, and former Steeler B.J. Finney. The group also includes linebacker Miles Killebrew and running back Kalen Ballage.
Position: Defensive End
Total Positional Figure: 9
Offseason Additions: 3
Offseason Deletions: 0
Cameron Heyward: You all know the drill here. Heyward has established himself as a perennial Pro Bowler at this point in his career and continues to play at a high level as he head deeper into his 30s. The key will be staying healthy.
Stephon Tuitt: The 2020 season finally gave birth to the seemingly long-awaited statistical breakout season for Tuitt, who I felt deserved Pro Bowl consideration after putting up 11 sacks with 10 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He’s shown this potential for years but struggled to stay on the field.
Chris Wormley: Acquired via trade a year ago, Wormley didn’t play much of a role last year, but could get on the field more in 2021 as the top rotational end after being re-signed as a free agent.
Tyson Alualu: Also re-signed is Alualu, whose primary role is nose tackle, but he will still function as an ‘end’ in the Steelers’ nickel front, and so goes here.
Isaiah Buggs: Now entering his third season, Buggs is perhaps heading for a roster battle after losing ground last season to then-rookie Carlos Davis. He was a healthy scratch for much of the second half of the year.
Henry Mondeaux: Coming off the practice squad to play special teams, Mondeaux can make a push to stay on the 53-man roster this offseason.
Calvin Taylor: Taylor was an undrafted free agent rookie a year ago who spent nearly all season on the practice squad. The 6’9” Kentucky product will have to compete just to maintain that positioning, however.
T.J. Carter: Carter was recently signed after working out at Kentucky’s Pro Day, where he was teammates with Taylor. He was with the Arizona Cardinals after the draft a year ago but was cut before camp.
Abdullah Anderson: Anderson has played in seven total games with multiple teams since coming out of Bucknell as a college free agent in 2018. Pittsburgh signed him just a week ago.
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes and Draft Outlook:
With the Steelers returning their entire position group from last season, drafting a defensive end will certainly not be a priority, especially with two stalwart, highly-paid starters. That will change in a year or two, likely, as Heyward gets closer to the end of the road, or if Tuitt is not re-signed. For this year, however, I wouldn’t expect them to draft anybody, barring potentially a late-round pick if it offered strong value.