The Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to boost their defensive line depth and insulate themselves after losing Javon Hargrave in free agency in 2020. Moving Tyson Alualu to the nose tackle position, they decided to trade for veteran 3-4 end Chris Wormley to serve as the top backup to Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
That year proved to be the one time that Tuitt would remain healthy for the entire season—minus one game missed while on the Reserve/COVID-19 List—and that allowed for little opportunity for Wormley, who was in the final year of his rookie contract, to demonstrate his worth.
But the Steelers re-signed him to a two-year contract anyway, even though they developed some depth, and even would later draft another end. With Tuitt now set to miss at least the first three games while he deals with a knee injury, Wormley will finally get the opportunity to log extended snaps and shot the coaches, and the fans, that he is the right man for the job.
“We were hoping [Tuitt] was ready to go but we didn’t know. Never know. You don’t know how injuries go sometimes, and so I’m glad we got [Wormley] and kept him”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler said on Wednesday. “It gives our young guys the chance to develop a little bit more”.
In that remark, he is speaking of players like Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and rookie fifth-round draft pick Isaiahh Loudermilk, all four of whom made the 53-man roster, though it’s a virtual guarantee that one of them will lose their spot once Tuitt is able to return.
“Not to say that our young guys aren’t gonna play”, Butler added. “We always rotate people early in the season, and the reason we do that is because it’s very hard to get in what I call ‘hitting shape’ and cardiovascular shape unless you do it. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got enough people and we keep people for extra in the game, hopefully”.
While the Steelers have seven linemen on the 53-man roster, it remains to be seen how many will dress. Because both Davis and Mondeaux are capable of playing on coverage units, my guess is that both will dress, as well Wormley as the starter until Tuitt returns, leaving Loudermilk as a healthy scratch—which he’ll likely remain for the entirety of his rookie season barring injuries.
Wormley was originally drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Michigan by the Baltimore Ravens. He developed into a quality rotational starter for them by his second season. The Steelers gave up a fifth-round pick to bring him in last year, and are hoping to reap their true return on investment now.