2023 Pre-Draft Movements – Defensive End

We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Steelers had a number of notable starters hit free agency this year, and their retention success rate was mixed, re-signing Larry Ogunjobi but losing Cameron Sutton, for example. Largely, however, what they lost they replaced, adding Patrick Peterson in Sutton’s stead.

They also had another active year in outside free agency beyond replacing missing pieces, or voluntary departures, such as Myles Jack. The most notable move was Isaac Seumalo being signed along the offensive line. While Terrell Edmunds is gone, Damontae Kazee was retained and Keanu Neal was added. Likewise, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts come in and replace Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.

The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Jack and William Jackson III, the latter of whom never dressed for them. As of now, they have restructured only one contract to create cap space, that being Minkah Fitzpatrick, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is very possible.

Position: Defensive End

Total Positional Figure: 5

Offseason Additions: 1

Offseason Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

Cameron Heyward: Posting another season of double-digit sacks, Heyward somehow didn’t make the All-Pro team last year. Perhaps the pundits are jumping the gun on Father Time. He’ll win eventually, but Heyward is making him work for it.

Larry Ogunjobi: The Steelers made the bold move of retaining Ogunjobi after taking out a one-year rental on him and not getting his best play. Their three-year deal worth nearly $10 million per season reflects a belief that he will be better moving forward. And he should be.

DeMarvin Leal: A third-round pick a year ago, Leal logged a decent number of snaps, but the Steelers had him moving around. That may be their plan for him, even as part of a more diverse set of sub-packages, including four-lineman looks.

Isaiahh Loudermilk: Time is running out for Loudermilk heading into his third season. While he dealt with injuries to start the 2022 season, his play when he did get on the field didn’t even match that of his rookie year.

Players Added:

Armon Watts: For now, I’m viewing Watts as part of the defensive end group, a player who should see the bulk of his work in the nickel as a pass rusher. Signed to a cheap, veteran-minimum deal, he figures to compete to serve as quality depth, but he should be able to play up and down the line.

Players Deleted:

Chris Wormley: Still recovering from a torn ACL, it’s unlikely we hear much of anything about Wormley for awhile, if we ever do. If the Steelers have any intention of re-signing him, it likely wouldn’t be at least until training camp.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

There are many who believe the defensive line is as big a need as any for the Steelers in the 2023 NFL Draft. I’m not quite in that group, but I can certainly see the argument. Bolstering the trenches would always be a noble goal even if the defensive line didn’t leave something to be desired last year.

The Steelers have to start planning for their post-Heyward future, and nobody knows exactly when that’s going to come. Even if he has a few years left in him, it will probably be a case of diminishing returns like Calais Campbell.

Adding a high-pedigreed player who can come in and be groomed as his successor while serving as a high-level rotational option sure sounds really good. It could come as early as the first round, but I don’t think the Steelers leave round four without adding here, at the latest.

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