It was announced Sunday afternoon that the Pittsburgh Steelers were signing Arizona DL Trevon Mason to a after getting a tryout at rookie minicamp. Mason came in after going undrafted out of Arizona after playing three seasons with the Wildcats, starting out at Navarro Community College in 2018. He became an immediate starter in Tucson, logging 26 starts and racked up 106 total tackles (56 solo), 15 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, and seven PBUs (four in 2021) in his three seasons with the team.
As Alex Kozora pointed out in the initial signing post on Mason, he boasts the prototypical size and frame Pittsburgh looks for in their base 3-4 DEs, standing 6’5 5/8”, 290lb. Here is what Kozora had to say regarding Mason prior to the rookie minicamp:
“Last but not least is Mason who lacks length (32 5/8 inches) but overall has the profile of a Steelers’ defensive end. 42 tackles (7.5 TFL) and 2.5 sacks last season, all career-high numbers for him. He used his size and length well to bat down four passes a year ago. He ran a 5.02 at his Pro Day.”
Mason played in the 300-305lb range his last season but tried to cut some weight to run faster for his Pro Day. Given his size and frame, he projects to be a good scheme fit as a base DE in Pittsburgh’s defense. He uses his size and frame well as a run defender, being able to punch OL at the snap of the ball and keep them off his chest, getting into gaps to seal off running lanes like we see on this rep by Mason against Washington, working through the block attempt to tackle the runner from behind for no gain.
When he times the snap currently, Mason can evade blocks smoothly and be a disruptive force in the backfield. Here in the same game, we watch Mason for over one block and takes on the pulling guard in the hole, shocking him back and locates the runner on the inside shoulder of the blocker. Mason then works across the OL’s face and wraps up the back for the stop, setting up fourth down.
Here is another example against BYU where Mason works across the face of the RG trying to down block him to wrap up the running back in the end zone, resulting in a safety for the defense.
Mason has subtle moves to get blockers’ hands off his frame both as a run defender and as a pass rusher. Here on this loop to the inside, Mason gets the LG to commit to him, freeing the LB to come downhill on the blitz. Mason gives the LG a rip to get his arm off his frame as he gets into the backfield and forces the QB into the edge rusher who takes credit for the sack. Mason rushes high and upright on this play, but he gets the pressure that leads to the sack for the defense.
Here against Cal, we watch Mason play with a little better pad level as he gets hands-on the RT on the snap then quickly swims over his inside shoulder to get into the backfield. He fights pressure from the RG and finds the QB having tripped in the pocket and gets the easy cleanup sack for the Wildcats.
Another thing that sticks out when watching Mason on tape is his motor. The guy consistently plays chase to the football and gives good effort in pursuit despite pushing the 300lb mark. Here are a couple of examples from the Washington game where Mason works off his block to play chase to the ballcarrier, getting in on the action.
While Mason is a long, versatile DL that played up-and-down the LOS for the Wildcats, he still needs to better fill out his frame and get functionally stronger to better shed blocks at the LOS and hold his own at the point of attack against the run. Here on this TD run, we watch Mason line up in-between the LT and tackle-eligible TE at the RDE spot. The tackle-eligible and off-set TE successfully wall him down to create an open lane for the tail back to run into the end zone for the score. With a better base and not standing up so quickly after taking on the block, Mason would be in better position to anchor and hold his spot.
Here is another example against the Huskies where Mason gets too high at the snap of the ball when engaging the RG. He also is slow to shed the block and fight pressure down the LOS to close down the gap the back runs through into the second level of the defense as he rips a long run into Wildcat territory. Better pad level and more urgency to stack and shed the block are needed from Mason here on this play to prevent the explosive run.
When watching Mason’s tape, I couldn’t help but get a similar feeling that I had of Isaiahh Loudermilk last season coming out of Wisconsin. Both players have near-identical frames with Loudermilk standing a shade under 6’7, 295lb. Both have shorter arms for their size, making it more difficult to shed blocks and have issues playing with consistent pad level and anchor. Both defenders are experienced seniors coming out that played up-and-down the LOS for their respective defenses, being better suited for stopping the run than providing a pass rush. They lack that twitch and refined hand usage as pass rushers but do a good job getting hands up into passing lanes in attempt to bat down balls near the LOS.
Loudermilk was seen as a project that many considered a reach when Pittsburgh traded back into the fifth round to select him in the 20221 NFL Draft. Still, based on the historical trends at the potion, Loudermilk fit the mold of what Pittsburgh wants to have in terms of measurables. Mason meets those same criteria and can be had with far less investment than Loudermilk, being a rookie minicamp signing rather than a draft pick. Mason’s best bet is for Pittsburgh to see promise in his physical tools and keep him on the practice squad to develop this season, following a similar path Loudermilk did before being thrust into action last year due to injuries on the DL.
Mason could figuratively provide a push for both Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal in training camp and possibly give Pittsburgh another body in the room next season if he makes the practice squad or 53-man roster should Stephon Tuitt no longer be in the fold and Chris Wormley not be re-signed after the season.
What are your thoughts on DL Trevon Mason? Do you see him as a developmental piece Pittsburgh can groom for the future, or do you see him merely as a camp body that will be off the roster by the time training camp ends? Do you think there are similarities between Mason and Isaiahh Loudermilk? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!