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Discussion: OL or DL/EDGE – Which Is The Bigger Need?

Recently, I completed a series highlighting several outside free agents the Pittsburgh Steelers may be interested in adding on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball prior to the start of training camps. It has become custom for a player or two to be added to the roster via free agency after the draft has concluded to tie up any “loose ends” on the roster. Normally, this tends to occur after mandatory minicamp when the coaching staff and personnel staff have laid eyes on the players in attendance, likely deciding whether they feel comfortable with who that have at certain position groups or if they feel the need to add more depth or a potential starter to shore up positions of weakness on the roster.

We saw Pittsburgh already add S/CB Damontae Kazee immediately following the draft, and given the team’s history as well as HC Mike Tomlin’s comments post-draft concerning the lack off addressing outside linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft, you can pretty confidently say that they aren’t done adding outside players to the current roster.

So, while we can expect Pittsburgh to add a couple of outside free agents to the roster before the start of the season, what position should they have the higher priority on: OL or DL? For all intents and purposes, I am listing the EDGE position with the DL, as EDGE often plays along the defensive front in a majority of Pittsburgh’s defensive formations. Obviously, Tomlin was already asked the question as to why they didn’t draft another EDGE defender. The members here at Steelers Depot were firmly in that camp as well, expecting Pittsburgh to draft an EDGE with the room behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith including Genard Avery, Derek Tuszka, John Simon, Delontae Scott, Tyree Johnson, and T.D. Moultry.

While Avery is an intriguing outside addition and Simon is a grizzled NFL veteran, the other names on the roster don’t inspire much confidence, as all of them are young, developmental options just hoping to make the final roster or practice squad. Thus, Pittsburgh could use an established veteran behind their entrenched starter to be able to rotate in and provide a viable pass rush like Melvin Ingram was supposed to last season before he forced his way out via trade.

The interior defensive line can be addressed here too, as the all-important variable here is whether or not DE Stephon Tuitt returns this season. Everything is still up in the air with Tuitt despite encouraging signs and communication between Tuitt and GM Kevin Colbert and HC Mike Tomlin. Still, should Tuitt not return, or Pittsburgh decide to move on from him and his contact, they could stand to add an outside addition to alleviate the pressure on projected starters Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley as well as allow Isaiahh Loudermilk and rookie DeMarvin Leal come along at their own pace in terms of their continued development, limiting their snaps and keeping the DL room depth chart stocked.

On the other side of the argument, many of yinz have been clamoring throughout free agency and the draft for Pittsburgh to make more of an impact in terms of addressing the offensive line. They did manage to re-sign Chukwuma Okorafor to a three-year deal, and brought in outside FAs James Daniels and Mason Cole who are center/guard versatile, having logged significant snaps and starts at both positions. Alex Kozora recently posted an early 53-man roster prediction having both Daniels and Cole in the starting lineup, with Daniels at RG and Cole at C. Along with them, Kevin Dotson projects to man the LG spot, with Dan Moore Jr. and Okorafor at the tackle spots.

Kozora: 2022 Way-Too-Early Steelers’ Roster Predictions

Now this starting lineup may not inspire confidence in some, but I for one think it definitely is an improved unit from the one the team rolled out there last season, particularly with Daniels at RG. Still, I would be lying if I said if I was elated the team brought back Okorafor at RT, although it made sense given his youth and the contract he signed. Still, Pittsburgh should investigate adding to the unit in some form or fashion, whether it be upgrading one of the tackle spots with an outside addition or upgrading the reserves behind the starts that include Joe Haeg, John Leglue, Kendrick Green, J.C Hassenauer, and Chaz Green.

They may be hard-pressed to find a starting-caliber player they feel confident rolling out there, but adding to the room is never a bad options giving the number of injuries and rotations the OL deals with throughout a full season.

Which position do you think carries the highest priority to be addressed from the outside via free agency or trade this offseason: OL or DL/EDGE? What is your reasoning for your choice? Do you think it will be a depth signing, or do you see Pittsburgh adding a notable name to either position group? Please leave your thoughts below and thanks again for reading!

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