Though the offensive line upgrades grabbed all the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason attention, they added to the other side of the trenches too. Late last month, the team inked NT Breiden Fehoko to a one-year deal. He a classic run stuffer to help offset Tyson Alualu, a free agent who has likely played his final NFL down. A three-year rotational player for the Los Angeles Chargers, Fehoko logged a career-high 279 defensive snaps last season.
Though he signed for the minimum, there were more offers than just the one from Pittsburgh. But the Steelers’ system and philosophy suited him best and it’s why he chose the Steelers. Fehoko explained his reasoning in a recent interview on the Steel Here podcast with hosts Jersey Jerry and Kevin Adams.
“There were two or three other teams that kinda reached out,” Fehoko told the show. “It was all the same thing, it was all minimums. But for me, the biggest thing was fit. I felt Pittsburgh fit my style of play. I’m a 3-4 guy. Not saying I don’t want to play in a 4-3, I can do it. I’m a football guy, I play defensive line.
“But what I take pride in is playing inside in-between the tackles. Playing physical, playing rugged. I’m not really a flashy guy. I’m not gonna go swim a guy, I’m not gonna go be Aaron Donald. I think what I do fits what Pitt wants out of me as a player. That’s just to play rugged every play.”
Fehoko is a classic run-stuffer. At 6’3 and roughly 320 pounds (his 300-pound listing on the team site is off by several cheeseburgers) he played zero/one tech with the Chargers on run-heavy downs. In our scouting report, we noted his ability to hold the point of attack and stuff the run. And as an undrafted free agent who truly had to earn his place, he comes with a chip on his shoulder.
Here are the “good” qualities we noted in his report.
— Functionally strong and can hold point of attack when playing with proper pad level
— Experience as a nose tackle/shad in a 3-4 system, used on run stunts
— Able to secure gap when asked to one-gap
— Flashes active hands and ability to club off blocks in run game to quickly win and force runner to change paths
— Lacks great length but able to use arms to create space in run game
— Utilizes wrap and roll tackle to finish plays”
Fehoko brings NFL experience on the cheap. Though he is limited to run downs and situations — he has yet to record an NFL sack and his tape shows little pass rush juice — he has a niche role that he’s done well enough. Still, he’ll battle for a helmet and a roster spot this summer. Pittsburgh’s certain to bring in additional defensive line help that could include a nose tackle. They’ve shown interest in some of the draft’s truest 1-techs, players like Baylor’s Siaki Ika, Michigan’s Mazi Smith, Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton, and Western Kentucky’s Brodric Martin.
Still, Fehoko is a useful insurance policy ahead of the draft. To win the AFC North, to stop the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens’ run game, it starts up front. Pittsburgh greatly improved its run defense from 2021 to 2022 and can’t backslide, especially assuming it will be in a playoff dogfight down the stretch.
You can check out the full interview below.