The Pittsburgh Steelers have invested a fifth-round draft pick in their defensive line recently, but you may have forgotten which that is. Technically, they did draft Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth round this year, but only after acquiring that selection by trading away a fourth-round pick in 2022.
It was a 2020 fifth-round pick that brought former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Chris Wormley to the Steelers last year via trade in March. He was in the final year of his rookie contract, and he recently admitted to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor that he didn’t think he’d be back.
She writes that Wormley was mentally prepare for yet another new start a second year in a row following the trade that he found surprising, and acknowledges that he felt hurt by the Ravens’ decision to trade him. But he’s happy now to try to make the Steelers his home for the time being after they brought him back on a two-year, $4.5 million deal.
“We’re willing to give Pittsburgh another chance”, Pryor quotes the fifth-year veteran as saying. “It’s a team that values the defensive line. They’re a great organization. Looking back at it now, two months removed from free agency, I think we made the right decision, for sure”.
Wormley only logged just 148 snaps last season in Pittsburgh, after seeing more than 400 defensive snaps in each of his previous two seasons with the Ravens, but it’s hard to crack the Steelers’ rotation behind Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, who rarely leave the field.
He recorded just eight tackles all season, including one for loss, along with one sack and three quarterback hits, but the Steelers have years’ worth of tape on Wormley, and know who he is as a player and how he fits into their system. Not only did they play against him for three years in the AFC North, they scouted him heavily coming out of Michigan. But the Ravens got to him in the third round before Pittsburgh could.
The Steelers have brought him back because they believe he can contribute more substantially than he had the opportunity to last season, which was a tumultuous and chaotic year for him in a multitude of ways, from the shock trade, to raising his first, newborn child, to the onset of the pandemic, moving to a new city, and then lingering injuries that started in training camp and which he says affected him throughout the season.
With the decision to bring back Wormley and the drafting of Loudermilk, it seems clear the team is trying to make sure that they not only have depth, but a rotation. I think we can expect to see more movement of personnel along the defensive line this year, and guys like those mentioned will be grateful for it.
The Steelers have a history of carrying rotational defensive lineman for the long term as part of their core unit—think names like Chris Hoke, and Travis Kirschke. Never intended starters, but crucial players. Wormley can be that sort of contributor to this line. And if he manages that, then he’ll be successful in turning Pittsburgh into his home.