It’s well-known that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a major depth issue along the defensive line ahead of the 2023 season with names like Chris Wormley and Larry Ogunjobi set to hit free agency, and Tyson Alualu expected to retire.
Entering the offseason ahead of free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft, the position is one of great importance to the Steelers and GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl.
NFL.com’s Nick Shook seems to think so too, playing matchmaker with the Steelers and veteran defensive end Morgan Fox in a recent exercise for the league’s website, helping Pittsburgh get a jump on addressing the depth at the position prior to the draft.
“The Steelers received a quality season from veteran Larry Ogunjobi in 2022 but will need to replace him in 2023. I’m turning to the Chargers for his replacement because no matter the week, Fox seemed to consistently make plays for Los Angeles last season,” Shook writes regarding Fox and the Steelers being a potential pairing. “It’s not a spicy signing, but the Steelers don’t need those on the defensive side of the ball. What Pittsburgh needs is a veteran to play while figuring out whether they have something in youngsters Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal. Ogunjobi filled this role quite nicely last season; perhaps Fox could do the same.”
Fox, 28, is certainly an intriguing name, and one that hasn’t popped up yet this season.
A former member of the Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers, Fox had a breakout season in 2022, recording a career-high 38 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and 6.5 sacks for the Chargers, earning a grade of 62.7 from Pro Football Focus on the season.
Fox, who checks in at 6’3″, 275 pounds, is a bit undersized for what the Steelers like in their 3-4 base defensive ends, but he could be a sub-package pass rusher. Last season, Fox recorded a 70.6 pass rush grade, playing 575 snaps for Los Angeles in all 17 games with 12 starts. Of those 575 snaps, 356 were pass rush reps.
At this point in his career, Fox is very clearly a depth piece that can serve as a rotational player along the defensive line in base and sub-package football. He would not be an even 1-to-1 tradeoff with Ogunjobi in free agency, but would certainly be a good replacement for a guy like Wormley, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 14 last season.
Were the Steelers to add a guy like Fox, they’d still need to address the position early in the 2023 NFL Draft, as a starting defensive line, on paper, of Cameron Heyward, Montravius Adams and Morgan Fox doesn’t exactly make anyone feel comfortable. We’ll see what Khan and Weidl have in store on the defensive line, but Fox is certainly a strong depth piece and name to consider moving forward for the black and gold.