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2022 Training Camp Battles: Starting Defensive End

With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2022 season.

Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much closer to normal this year, including a relocation back to Latrobe, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. Which is a good thing, considering how many outstanding questions there are both in the starting lineup and within positions.

Position: Defensive End

Up for Grabs: Starting Job

In the Mix: Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal

You don’t typically sign a player to a contract worth $8 million for one season and then stick him on the bench, but the Steelers’ signing of Larry Ogunjobi was in response to the retirement of Stephon Tuitt, and he’s not a one-for-one match for the role that needs to be filled.

Chris Wormley started in Tuitt’s place all of last season, and he’s still on the roster. The team also likes the progression of second-year Isaiahh Loudermilk, while third-round rookie DeMarvin Leal is the highest-pedigreed lineman the team has drafted since 2016.

So is there going to be a real competition here? The thing is, since Ogunjobi was signed shortly after minicamp, nobody has had to get in front of the media and talk about the decision yet, so we don’t have any defined understanding of their rationale for the move or how they intend to use him.

Is he going to be the left defensive end in the Steelers’ 3-4 fronts? Could he potentially play nose tackle? Is he just going to be a super-sub who plays as much as any of the starters do, taking snaps from all three of the top guys wherever he’s needed?

Back in February or March, when discussing the Steelers’ plans along the defensive line amid the uncertainty with Tuitt, former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert referred to Wormley as somebody whom they looked at as a starter. He did start 14 games, registering 51 tackles with six for loss and seven sacks.

But could somebody like Loudermilk possibly make some noise and make a push to work his way up the depth chart? He steadily improved over the course of his rookie season, and reports from the spring indicate that he has bulked up and is much more comfortable heading into his second year in the league.

As for Leal, all we really know about him right now other than his college tape is his pedigree. You’re not going to know much about a defensive lineman without pads anyway, and those don’t come on until training camp. The odds of him ending up as the team’s starting defensive end at the end of training camp, in a way that doesn’t involve a rash of injuries, are rather unfavorable, but we might as well put him in the discussion anyway, just because there’s so little we know about him.

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