The Pittsburgh Steelers lost defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt to retirement this week, and in so added a bunch of salary cap space — a combination that has lots of folks, including some of us here at Steelers Now speculating about who might be out there for the team to sign as a replacement.
There are certainly quality options that remain available at the position, so it’s understandable why that is enticing.
But in reality, the Steelers don’t have that big need at the position. The team used more than two defensive lineman under 40% of the time in 2021, with the majority of the plays featuring just two. Tyson Alualu and Cameron Heyward, though getting up there in age, are more than qualified to be those two linemen. It’s hard to imagine the team upgrading on either of those players through free agency at this stage.
When the Steelers want a third defensive lineman, Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams are both more than qualified to fill that role. The team also has two young players they have high hopes for in Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal. That’s three deep for the sub packages and two deep for the base defense worth of defensive linemen the Steelers trust to have on the field. Can those depth option be upgraded upon? Of course. But the same can be said about the team’s depth at outside linebacker, tackle and running back.
There’s also the matter of what to do about Diontae Johnson. Minkah Fitzpatrick, the team’s other star playing on an expiring contract, is on the fifth year of his rookie deal and already has a high price tag. Johnson, in the fourth year of his third-round contract, is currently cheap, but won’t be going forward if the Steelers want to sign him. The cap space created by Tuitt’s retirement would probably be enough to give Johnson an extension without breaking the bank in 2022. That might be a better investment of those funds than adding a rotational defensive lineman.
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The Steelers are off today. The team still has not signed two of its seven draft picks from the 2022 NFL Draft: QB Kenny Pickett and WR Calvin Austin III. Austin Bechtold
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