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Farabaugh: The Steelers Have a Serious Defensive Line Problem



Steelers DL Cam Heyward

Make no mistake, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a serious defensive line problem. It is rare in the last decade to type out that phrase, but Stephon Tuitt is no longer in Pittsburgh and neither is Javon Hargrave. What is left of a great mid to late 2010s Steelers defensive line is Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu.

Heyward does not have the stats to back up his play, but he still measures in as a fantastic player. Alualu, on the other hand, has fallen off a cliff. Without Alualu there to plug in at nose tackle, Pittsburgh has been unable to figure out the nose tackle situation. Montravius Adams has tried to fill the void but has only done a solid job in the rotational role. This week, Pittsburgh tried to fill the void with Jonathan Marshall, a practice squad addition from the New York Jets.

It’s a worthy try, at least. The Steelers have yet to figure out what to do at nose tackle. When talking about issues along the defensive line, that position is the biggest issue. Thus far on the year, the run defense had held up until recent weeks, but the pass rush from the position has been nonexistent. Heyward even had to log snaps at nose tackle, a position where his minimal weaknesses are heightened. That simply can not be the norm in the future.

Larry Ogunjobi started off the year strong. However, injuries to Ogunjobi’s knee and toe have hampered him all season. Nothing seems to be going quite right for him. He is a talented player, but for the price tag, the Steelers have not received the bang for their buck it appeared they would get. So, will Ogunjobi even be back a year from now? That is growing to become increasingly unlikely the further along we go. The same goes for Chris Wormley, who just suffered a torn ACL.

There is no significant depth that is slated to be in Pittsburgh after this year. Ogunjobi, Wormley, and Alualu are all likely departures. That means the Steelers have three spots filled with DeMarvin Leal, Heyward, and Adams. With Leal and Heyward, that is depth. Isaiahh Loudermilk has not put together his pass rush repertoire enough to be relied upon consistently, and his run defense hasn’t been at the level needed to keep him as a run-stopping specialist. Leal, even, is a weird tweener that still needs to find his body type and position.

So, yes, the Steelers have a very serious defensive problem. That is both for starters, especially at nose tackle, and backups. Heyward is not getting any younger, and despite play that shows up on tape, his sack production has fallen. Needless to say, when free agency and the NFL Draft roll around, expect the defensive line to rightfully be talked about as one of the Steelers’ massive needs.

As contending teams continue to prove, winning in the trenches is often how you start to build a competitive team with a young quarterback. In the 2023 NFL offseason, the main focus in Pittsburgh needs to be their trench play, including the defensive line.

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