“On The Bubble” Series: Defensive Line

New series here at Steelers Depot as we dive into the roster position-by-position and look at who may be sitting on the “roster bubble” heading into training camp after the conclusion of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.  For the next part of this series, we will be looking at several defensive linemen likely fighting for the same roster spots.

The Names To Know:

Montravius Adams (age 26)

Adams found himself added to the Steelers roster by way of a moving train last season, signing with the team off the New Orleans Saints practice squad in late November as an attempt to bolster a porous run defense. Adams managed to aid the defensive line down the stretch, starting four-of-five games played with the team as well as the playoff game against the Chiefs and totaled eight tackles, one TFL, and three QB hits on 171 defensive snaps. His burst off the snap and effort in pursuit of the football stuck out on tape when watching Adams in limited action with Pittsburgh last season, being an effective gap penetrator and helping slightly improve the run defense upfront.

Pittsburgh rewarded Adams with a two-year deal worth $5 million during the offseason. According to Over The Cap, Adams carries a cap number of $1.767 million in 2021 with a dead cap hit of $1.465 million if released. Essentially, Adams’ deal comes to a one-year pact worth $2.5 million where Pittsburgh can get out in 2023 with a dead cap hit of $732,500.

While the team has more of a financial commitment to Adams than the other names on this list, he still is a player that has jumped around the league since being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, signing with the Patriots as a FA in 2021 but was shortly released at the end of training camp, then signing with the Saints and then being released and reverted to their practice squad. To date, Adams has recorded 59 total tackles, six TFLs, and 1.5 sacks, five PBUs, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Those aren’t eye-popping stats, but for a backup NT that plays with good effort, Adams likely sits in the driver’s seat right now.

Henry Mondeaux (age 26)

Going undrafted in 2018, Mondeaux signed initially with the Atlanta Falcons and was released prior to the start of the season. He found his way on the practice squad at the end of the year and later signed a future’s contract with the Chiefs before getting released by them in May of 2019. He ended up signing with the Steelers a week later but was waived in August and signed to the practice squad for the entire season. The same could be said prior for the 2020 season until he was promoted to the active roster on October 23 for the rest of the season. He was waived from the roster in 2021 but was later re-signed once Tyson Alualu went down to injury.

In 2021, Mondeaux played in 15 games and started two, logging 16 total stops (six solo), two TFLs, two sacks and a fumble recovery on 244 snaps played via Pro Football Reference. Still, Mondeaux struggled mightily against the run in-place of Alualu and DE Stephon Tuitt on increased snaps, allowing the highest yards per carry average of any of the teams’ defensive linemen when on the field in 2021. He brings rare special teams value, having the ability to cover kicks and punts and plays with great effort, but his lack of ideal size (6’4, 280lb) and power to hold the point of attack may make it an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster.


Carlos Davis & Khalil Davis (age 25)

I took the liberty of listing both Davis twins here. Carlos was initially drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft, seeing action in seven games during his rookie year and finished with six tackles and one TFL. After making the roster again in 2021, Carlos was placed on injured reserve in October with a knee injury, not returning to the roster until December and finished the year with five tackles and one TFL. The Steelers picked up Khalil Davis off waivers by the Indianapolis Colts in November after initially being waived by the Buccaneers who drafted him in the sixth round the same year as Carlos. He was signed to a futures deal in January by Pittsburgh.

Both Carlos and Khalil bring impressive athletic traits to the table in terms of speed, burst, and strength as evidenced by their workout numbers at the NFL Combine. However, both are still very raw when it comes to playing the position, struggling to be assignment-sound at maintaining gaps as well as be more disruptive at pushing the pocket and providing a competent pass rush. The athletic traits are there for both of the Davis brothers but given the performance of Montravius Adams last season and what was a lost year for Carlos last season, training camp and the preseason will play a big factor if either hopes to make the roster as the 6th or 7th DL or earn a practice squad spot.

Trevon Mason (age 23)

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Arizona DL Trevon Mason to a deal after getting a tryout at rookie minicamp. Mason came in after going undrafted out of Arizona after playing three seasons with the Wildcats, 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. Mason may have a tough time making the 53-man roster as a tryout rookie minicamp invite, but he boasts the prototypical size and frame Pittsburgh looks for in their base 3-4 DEs, standing 6’5 5/8”, 290lb.

As mentioned in my film room breakdown on Mason, he compares favorably to DL Isaiahh Loudermilk coming out of Wisconsin last season, having near-identical frames with shorter arms that do better as run defenders than as accomplished pass rushers. While Mason may not be a likely member of the regular season roster, he should be able to replace Daniel Archibong on the practice squad and push both Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal in training camp, having an outside chance of displacing Loudermilk on the roster, but most likely can be a practice squad stash in 2022.

What are your thoughts on the names listed “on the bubble” at the IOL position? Who do you think is safe and who do you think is in danger of losing their roster spot during training camp and the preseason? How do you see this position group shaking outcome the regular season as it stands today/ Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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