2023 Pre-Draft Movements – Defensive Tackle

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 Tackle

Total Positional Figure: 5

Offseason Additions: 2

Offseason Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

Montravius Adams: Adams took over the starting job after the Steelers demoted Tyson Alualu early in last season, a move as much about the play of the latter as of the former. He served as a largely able nose tackle who is more of a jack of all trades, but generally isn’t the guy you go into the season with locked in as your obvious starter.

Renell Wren: Wren spent most of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad, playing in one game and logging one snap. A former mid-round draft choice, injuries have played a favor in his inability to establish himself in the NFL as of yet. He’s more of a sub-package tackle than a base nose.

Jonathan Marshall: Added to the practice squad in December, Marshall was originally a sixth-round pick a couple years back with minimal playing time. He also played on some deep defensive lines, a factor in his inability to get ahead.

Players Added:

Breiden Fehoko: Signed in recent weeks, Fehoko is the closest thing they now have to a traditional 3-4 nose tackle. He comes over on a minimum value contract with three years of experience with the Chargers, but should have a good chance of fighting for a roster spot and being a contributor.

Armon Watts: I included Watts in the defensive end group, but he should be here, too. He would be the guy who plays up and down the line of the Steelers if he makes the team, but should still see most of his playing time in the nickel if they best suit his snaps to his ability.

Players Deleted:

Tyson Alualu: After a great 2020 season transitioning to nose tackle, a fractured ankle early in the 2021 season transformed Alualu as a player. He missed the rest of that season, and when he returned last year, he was demoted within a couple of games. He probably spent more time on the ground in 2022 than he did during his first four seasons in Pittsburgh combined.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

The moves to add Fehoko and Watts take the pressure off to add a player early in the draft, but finding a run-stuffing nose tackle in round four, or taking a flier on somebody in the seventh, wouldn’t be a bad idea. I do think that they are much more likely to use a draft pick on a more traditional five-tech body type than they are a one-tech, but it wouldn’t be shocking if they do both. It all depends on how the draft breaks, but clearly the trenches have been a priority this offseason.

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