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 more than a dozen players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, including numerous starters. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looms large over all discussions for the foreseeable future.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 5
Tyson Alualu: Soon to be 35 years old, Alualu has vowed to return for a 13th season after missing almost all of 2021 due to a fractured ankle. His stable presence against the run was sorely missed in the Steelers’ defense last season.
Montravius Adams: Picked up off of the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad around midseason, Adams, a five-year veteran, delivered some spark when he was brought in, and sees the Steelers as a potential future long-term home for his football career. With a bit more polish, he could become an integral member of the defensive front.
Carlos Davis: Heading into his third season, Carlos Davis spent most of 2021 injured, the injury occurring in Week 1. He was not placed on the Reserve/Injured List until late October, and was finally activated December 4, but only played a few dozen snaps, and was inactive for the final two games.
Khalil Davis: The twin brother of Carlos was signed to the practice squad midseason after being released twice over the course of the year by other teams. Even though they previously tried to claim him off waivers, which would have necessitated that they put him on the 53-man roster, they never elevated him from the practice squad, though they did retain him after the season.
Demarcus Christmas: A former 2019 sixth-round pick, Christmas has yet to play a snap in the NFL. He first joined the Steelers’ practice squad in late 2020. He was injured in the summer of 2021 and spent the entire subsequent season on the Reserve/Injured List. He will be an exclusive rights free agent.
This conversation has to at least acknowledge the ability of Cameron Heyward and Henry Mondeaux to play snaps at nose tackle in a pinch, which both of them did last season, but if Alualu and Adams (or one of the Davis brothers) are not their top two nose tackles in 2022, then something either went right or very wrong.
It is reasonable to imagine that the defensive line will be on Pittsburgh’s radar this offseason after finishing 32nd against the run, naturally, but they won’t forget they’re getting Alualu back. They also won’t forget that this will probably be his last season, however.
They won’t be at the top of the market, but they could certainly be in the running for a veteran nose tackle who could provide depth this season and potentially be their ‘starter’ in 2023 and beyond. I would say as early as the third round, the position could be on the draft board, as well.