With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: The Steelers should be looking to address the defensive line early in the draft regardless of Stephon Tuitt’s status.
Explanation: Even with Cameron Heyward in the lineup, the defensive line was arguably the Steelers’ worst position group last season that they have not addressed this offseason. Heyward is also approaching his mid-30s, regardless of how well he has played, and Tyson Alualu is near the very end of his career as well.
Brett Keisel was 31 in 2009 when the Steelers drafted Ziggy Hood. Aaron Smith was 33. The Steelers drafted Heyward two years later, as their starters were two years older. And now Heyward is 33. The same age Smith was when they first drafted Hood.
It’s time to take a big swing. It’s not like the defensive line doesn’t need help, based on what we saw last year. A 35-year-old Alualu coming back from a broken ankle isn’t going to completely fix the run defense. Stephon Tuitt hasn’t played football in a year. Even if he does come back, we don’t know what he’ll look like.
And this draft is as good as any to do it, if you’re talking about the defensive line talent that is available.
While it would almost never be a bad idea to add talent to the defensive line, the reality is that it can wait a year for the Steelers. They drafted Hood and Heyward in an era in which they didn’t expect their rookies to play, and that was even on the defensive line.
The group will be fine for the 2022 season by getting Alualu and Tuitt back, supplemented by Montravius Adams heading into a full offseason, and Isaiahh Loudermilk going into year two. Carlos Davis’ 2021 season was nearly a complete write-off after being injured for the vast majority of it.
And there’s no way that the play from the inside linebacker position doesn’t improve from last season. You want to talk struggles with the run game? You can just as easily look there for the culprit rather than trying to pin everything on Chris Wormley.