With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: DL Armon Watts
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers appear as though they are still not done tinkering with their roster ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, adding yet another unrestricted free agent to the mix. They are expected to sign fifth-year veteran defensive lineman Armon Watts, according to his agent, to a one-year contract to compete for a roster spot.
Entering his first full offseason as a general manager, Omar Khan said earlier this month that his message to his staff was simple: go out and find competition throughout the roster. That is something that the Steelers have accomplished in certain areas, most notably the trenches, adding five outside free agents in total to the offensive and defensive lines.
The latest addition is Armon Watts, a fifth-year defensive lineman. He spent the 2022 season with the Chicago Bears after playing his first three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, who drafted him in the sixth round in the 2019 NFL Draft.
An Arkansas product, the 26-year-old lineman does offer some pass-rush potential with eight career sacks. He had as many as five in 2021, his final season in Minnesota, which is when he saw his most extensive playing time, 670 snaps.
In all, Watts has played 1,715 defensive snaps since entering the NFL, including 532 as a member of the Bears last season. During that time, he recorded 35 tackles and a career-high four tackles for loss, though he added only one sack.
It is expected that he will be signing only a one-year veteran-minimum contract, which, if it does not include a signing bonus, would not affect the Steelers’ salary cap by even a dollar, since it would match the current lowest qualifying contract on the roster. The same is true of the deal to which the Steelers signed Breiden Fehoko.
Both defensive linemen will be brought into training camp this summer to compete for a roster spot, and it is possible that neither end up with one. They each likely profile more as defensive tackles than ends, though in Watts’ case, his best fit would be in the nickel. Fehoko is more of a 3-4 nose tackle with virtually no pass-rush upside.
The current starting nose tackle is Montravius Adams, who is due to earn $2.5 million this season on the final year of his deal. The Steelers also have Renell Wren and Jonathan Marshall, both of whom spent time with the team last season but did not play (or at least play more than a single snap, in Wren’s case). It is very possible they add to the position via the draft as well.