The Pittsburgh Steelers knew coming into this season that they had some encouraging depth along the defensive line. They surely, however, had no idea just how extensively they would have to be making use of it through the first half of the season.
They had eight defensive linemen make the initial 53-man roster, though that quickly whittled down to six, and they have been working now with five for most of the year. Stephon Tuitt has been on the Reserve/Injured List all season with a knee issue; Tyson Alualu suffered a season-ending fractured ankle a couple of weeks into the year. On top of that, second-year contributor Carlos Davis has missed most of the season so far, as well.
That has forced Chris Wormley and Isaiah Buggs into much more prominent roles, but it’s also had the domino effect of calling upon the services of depth players they didn’t even anticipate dressing this year. That includes rookie fifth-round pick Isaiahh Loudermilk, who was ticketed for an inactive slot all season before the injuries changed those plans. Henry Mondeaux, who has been on the practice squad, was also called up to contribute.
“Anytime Milk is out there, you could see him improving, you could see him contributing to the team”, Wormley said of the rookie out of Wisconsin. “He might get 15 snaps a game, but he’s productive with it. It’s fun to see a guy, especially a rookie, take on that challenge, and produce when he’s out there”.
Loudermilk has dressed for every game since week two, and has logged 61 snaps in that span. He played a season-low (for the games in which he has dressed) eight snaps in their game before the bye week, but he made that count with a run stuff for no gain. He also recorded a sack that the team chose to negate by accepting a penalty on the offense.
I wrote yesterday based on what I had been seeing from him that his stock is up, noticing a bit more play-to-play consistency in his technique, and his less frequent clear losses in reps. He’s also ending up on the ground less frequently. So it’s good to see that reinforced a bit by Wormley.
But the hope is, of course, that he can soon go back to being a healthy scratch. Mondeaux will be the one to lose playing time as Davis comes back—and he should be back this week, since he was already practicing again before the bye—but once Tuitt returns, which is hopefully also soon, Loudermilk can go back to sitting on the bench and observing.