No one expected Chris Wormley or Isaiahh Loudermilk to play as much as they did last season. For Wormley to be a full-time starter, for Loudermilk to work his way into the rotation, all due to Stephon Tuitt being unavailable the entire year. Far from ideal on paper or in practice, the Steelers’ defense suffered.
Now that Tuitt has officially hung up his cleats, DL Coach Karl Dunbar sees the silver lining of the many, many growing pains this group went through last year. They’re a lot better off for it in 2022. That’s how he viewed things in speaking with reporters Wednesday via this tweet from the Trib’s Chris Adamski.
“We got lucky last year,” he told reporters earlier today. “I say we got lucky because Loudermilk played a lot, Wormley played a lot at that position. So it’s not like the guys we’re going to put into that position are going to be green…with [Tuitt] retiring, we’ve got some guys who have had some reps at the position. So we’re going to have to go on from there.”
Wormley played over 700 snaps as a 14-game starter while Loudermilk logged nearly 300. Wormley didn’t provide the highs and big plays Tuitt did, though he did finish last year with a career-high seven sacks and played serviceable football throughout the season. Loudermilk took his lumps and had trouble finding consistency but improved his run defense as the season went along, and statistically, performed well. According to our charting, the Steelers allowed 4.0 YPC when he was on the field, the best mark of any lineman who played substantial snaps last season. Pittsburgh’s run defense as a whole allowed a league-worst 5.0 YPC.
Certainly, the ups and downs of those guys a year ago puts them in a better position to succeed this season now that Tuitt is definitely out of the picture. Pittsburgh will also count on third-round rookie DeMarvin Leal to make an impact right away, though he may be most effective as a sub-package pass rusher on third down.
Ideally, Loudermilk can serve as a rotational base defensive end with Leal working his way into nickel and dime packages, the team’s two-down fronts. If Wormley can play roughly at the same level as a year ago, perhaps a tick above, and with the return of Tyson Alualu and Montravius Adams, the Steelers’ run defense has a chance to be a top ten unit.