Training Camp

2022 Training Camp Grades: Defensive Line

For the rest of the preseason, we’ll give a recap, position-by-position, player-by-player of what I saw during the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp and preseason games. This list is based off the 16 public camp practices and the preseason games I’ve watched up until this point and is based solely off their performance then and does not necessarily represent my feelings for the players overall or during the regular season.

With that in mind, we’ll flip over to the defensive side of the football.

Cam Heyward: Heyward is one of the few guys this camp I didn’t need to spend much time observing. Energy was better spent checking on everyone else along this unit. Still, Heyward’s presence was easy to spot and he had another impactful camp, collapsing the pocket and batting down passes. While he’s worked on some finesse moves in the offseason and during 1v1s, I know the first third-and-long he’ll get this year he’ll be using ‘ol reliable – his bull rush and long-arm.

Perhaps what I noticed most from Heyward this year, a bit different than others, was how vocal he was. He’s been a leader on this team for years and his presence has always been felt but it felt like he took it to a different level this season. He was as active a talker as anybody on the sidelines, using vocal carrots and sticks to motivate the defense while working 1v1 with the likes of rookie DeMarvin Leal during drills. Watching Leal run to the ball the way he has is a direct reflection of Heyward, who plays with as much effort as any player in football.

Thankfully, he avoided a potentially-serious ankle injury on the final day of camp and though he missed the second preseason game because of it, he’ll suit up for today’s finale. He’ll enter the regular season among the best at his position and one of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Camp Grade: B+

Larry Ogunjobi: It took Ogunjobi some time to become a full practice participant as the team slow-played his role coming off an offseason foot injury. Ogunjobi didn’t work in full until about mid-way through camp but made an immediate impact, dominating run-session against the second-team o-line. He quickly moved up to work against the starters. Though his run defense was considered questionable by outlets like PFF, it was one of his best areas in camp, routinely getting off blocks and making the stop. During a thud-tackling session near the end of camp, Ogunjobi registered three-straight stops. He’s largely worked in nickel packages but saw some LDE work in Saturday’s game against Seattle. He looks healthy, though will get some veteran days off, and should have an impactful role on this team.

Camp Grade: B+

DeMarvin Leal: A nice camp for the rookie. The best thing I saw out of him was retaining quickness and pass rush juice despite adding roughly 20 pounds. He explodes off the ball and his hand use is impressive, winning as a pass rush in a ton of ways. Cross chops, rips, spins, swims, he’s able to swing moves together, too. Leal is an impressive athlete in space and chased the ball hard, once running with Anthony McFarland 50 yards to the end zone to finish one rep (McFarland wasn’t full jets but Leal still impressed with his effort). I’m not sure where he’s at with his run defense, my primary concern with him coming out, but he’s on a positive track. He was healthy and available and worked every day, not something I want to overlook or take for granted for a rookie.

Though he logged some LDE snaps, Leal is going to be used as a sub-package rusher if and when he plays this year. With as deep a defensive line as the Steelers have, Leal’s rookie impact could be limited but he’ll round out the room well.

Camp Grade: B+

Chris Wormley: Now well-established in the Steelers’ defense, Wormely had a fine summer. He’s been healthy and available and worked every single day of practice, no small feat given the rigors of training camp. He took advantage of James Daniels’ discomfort and regularly beat him in 1v1 drills with power and swim moves. Larry Ogunjobi’s presence may reduce Wormley’s role, especially in sub-package, but I’ll keep an eye on how the base 3-4 looks in today’s finale with the starters healthy. Wormley shows good hand use and isn’t often stuck on blocks though he isn’t especially explosive and wins more with technique than pure athletic traits. But he’s refined and often wins, even if it isn’t always as early in the rush as you’d like.

Camp Grade: B

Isaiahh Loudermilk: A more focused pass rusher is the biggest takeaway I’ve seen from his game. Loudermilk is understanding how he wins getting after the quarterback, doing it with power. Bull rushes, push/pulls, and using the occasional swim once he’s established power. It just made him a more effective player and gives him the best chance at being a three-down player. Still, he’s not a toolsy pass rusher and shouldn’t have a significant role in sub-packages. Not with guys like Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, DeMarvin Leal, and others on this team. Loudermilk’s run defense was solid though staying low and not getting uprighted, an issue due to his height, is still an area of his game’s he’s trying to iron out.

Unfortunately, Loudermilk injured what the team is calling a rib but to me looked more like an oblique or some sort of muscle pull near the end of camp. He’s bounced in and out of the lineup since, suiting up but seeing just five snaps in Saturday’s win over Jacksonville. Hopefully he’s fully healthy for Week One. Loudermilk didn’t make a massive jump in play but he made a noticeable one and that was promising to witness.

Camp Grade: B

Tyson Alualu: It was great seeing Alualu on the field again after having nearly his entire 2021 season wiped out by a freak ankle fracture. He spent the first week of camp on PUP but got activated for the “Monday Afternoon Lights” practice and played in the second preseason game against Jacksonville. His DNA is now 11% giant knee brace that covers his left leg but he looked healthy, albeit a bit rusty, during the summer. But he’ll be ready to rock Week One as this team’s nose tackle. He has and will get work in sub-package too but the team may look to cutdown his snaps this season in all packages but primarily in nickel/dime. Alualu is likely in the final year of his career and the Steelers want him healthy and available for it. Health was the big thing and Alualu generally looks like his old self. Those were the two biggest boxes to check and he did.

Camp Grade: B

Henry Mondeaux: I’ve given Mondeaux a fair amount of guff for his play as a defensive lineman, though I’ve always appreciated his scrappy, ultra-athletic nature. With injuries ahead of him, Mondeaux saw considerable snaps as first-team nose tackle this summer. He played better than I thought he would, especially against Seattle, with better leverage and stouter at the point of attack. He plays with great effort and runs well in the open field, a fun player to watch and a guy who maximizes his talent and opportunity. But he’s still more energy than technique, especially in the passing game, and the Steelers’ defensive line is as deep as anywhere. He’s earned a spot on the practice squad but has struggled to carve out a defined defensive role.

Camp Grade: B

Montravius Adams: For the first half of camp, Adams was quietly chugging along with a rock solid camp. A full year in the Steelers’ system had him more comfortable and he continued to look explosive off the ball, penetrating upfield and being disruptive against the run. An ankle injury tripped up his strong summer and he’s missed roughly three weeks because of it, wiping out his preseason. The injury didn’t appear to be incredibly serious, he walked around fine without a boot or crutch, but it’s obviously bad enough for him to miss a chunk of time. We’ll see if he has to start the year on IR or not.

Camp Grade: B-

Carlos Davis: One half of the Davis’ brothers on this team, Davis had a nice training camp. He’s athletic, explosive, and is sort of a poor man’s Javon Hargrave in a squatty body who wants to get upfield and stress offensive linemen. Davis had a strong amount of success in 1v1s and he’s an impressive athlete who at least saw practice reps covering kicks and punts during special teams drills, though he’s yet to be used there in-game. His most memorable moment of camp was a dirty shot to sprint from the sidelines and ear-holed rookie OT Jake Dixon, who was mixing it up with Khalil Davis. Never seen something like that in a Steelers’ practice before and definitely a bush league moment.

Davis’ in-game performances weren’t quite as solid, though he generated pressure off twists and games against Jacksonville. It’s doubtful he makes the Week One roster and as a more experienced player with some decent tape, there is real potential for him to be claimed off waivers.

Camp Grade: B-

Khalil Davis: Like brother Carlos, Khalil had an active training camp. He’s not quite as squatty or strong as Carlos but might be the even better athlete and a talented pass rusher with a quick first step. He certainly had some of the quickest and most impressive wins in 1v1 but he can play out of control and lose ugly, too. Run defense wasn’t his strength and he was washed too often. He did have a big stick to end the win over Seattle but that was a backyard football play and not something that counts all that much in an actual evaluation of his game. He’ll fight for a practice squad spot but could get squeezed with how competitive and deep this room is.

Camp Grade: C+

Donovan Jeter: An often forgotten name along this defensive line, Jeter’s survived the initial ten cuts that whittled the Steelers’ roster by ten spots. Jeter ran as a reserve nose tackle but saw more snaps as other guys in his room, like Doug Costin, were released, coupled with injuries ahead of him to guys like Montravius Adams. Jeter was a bit better pass rusher than I anticipated with active hands the ability to stay clean. He isn’t a great athlete and his run defense was just average but there were at least flashes from him this summer. More than I expected.

Camp Grade: C

Doug Costin: Costin had a couple early moments, acting like a volleyball player at the net with multiple batdowns at the line of scrimmage. His NFL experience inside stadiums helped him look more comfortable catching a moving train and being signed by the team relatively late in the process, post OTAs and minicamp. But those swats alone weren’t enough for him to stick around and he was part of the initial cutdowns from 90 to 85. When on the roster, finding consistent snaps were hard and he was partially caught up in a numbers game.

Camp Grade: C-

Previous Camp Grades

Quarterback Grades
Running Back Grades
Tight End Grades
Wide Receiver Grades
Offensive Tackle Grades
Defensive Line Grades

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