Throughout the 2015 season, it was obvious that the Steelers’ biggest weakness was their secondary on defense. Their biggest strength defensively was along the defensive line where Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt both had great seasons, and are just 26 and 22 years old respectively.
That being said, the team was lucky that both Cam and Stephon were able to play at a high level all year long and avoid any serious injury with the amount of snaps they were playing. The two of them played a combined 2,106 snaps in 2015; up from 1,541 in 2014.
Mike Tomlin obviously realized that this can’t continue. During the senior bowl, reports were that Mike Tomlin spent almost the entire week with the defensive lineman.
I’m not sure if that necessarily means we’ll see one in the first round, but I absolutely wouldn’t rule it out, and I’d be surprised if they don’t select one in the first two rounds. It makes sense when you think of what holes to fill in free agency and what to look for in the draft. The team needs guys in the secondary to play now, which is why a veteran free agent makes more sense now. A backup lineman or starting nose tackle could make an impact quickly despite limited experience with the team.
This draft has a lot of really talented lineman that the Steelers could be interested in during the first 2 days of the draft. I see several prospects that could probably play nose tackle in their system as well as defensive end.
At the senior bowl, Mike Tomlin got a good look at Vernon Butler, Adolphus Washington, Sheldon Day, Jarran Reed, and Jihad Ward. That’s a really solid group of talented lineman that the Steelers could be interested in in the first or second round.
On top of those names, you still have guys like A’Shawn Robinson, DeForest Buckner, Andrew Billings, Sheldon Rankins, Robert Nkemdiche, Kenny Clark, and Austin Johnson.
Personally, I think there’s a ton of talent in that group and depending on how the team would want to go, could really bolster the defensive line depth. I’m a big fan of a guy like Andrew Billings who’s more of a traditional nose tackle. I’d love to grab him and retain Steve McLendon to backup all 3 spots on the line.
Or, some guys there like the duo from Alabama, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed are both guys that could line up at nose tackle, or move outside too.
Personally, I would like to see this team add a true nose tackle in the mold of Casey Hampton, but I think that Mike Tomlin prefers versatility over specialists.
Either way, there’s a lot of defensive line talent at the position early in this draft and this Steelers fan won’t be surprised if that’s the best player available when the Steelers are on the clock at pick 25.