PITTSBURGH — The Steelers will have a tough cut to make on the defensive line. Mike Tomlin knows that fact, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows it, and so do all of the defensive linemen competing for what will likely be seven spots on the final 53-man roster. While that could bring out a nasty side to players or even a hypercompetitive side, neither have manifested themselves in the Steelers’ defensive line room. Instead, the Steelers have gone through the process knowing they will likely lose a guy who can play in the NFL, but that brings out an appreciative side of the team.
“I like the depth that we have on the defensive line,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said on Monday. “It’s been a great competition, and there’s going to be some tough decisions that have to be made. Because I think, at the end of the day, we may lose a guy that we know can play in the NFL.
“So I think those guys, Milk, and all those guys, they’ve been doing a really good job. The competition is a healthy competition, which is what I really like. The guys are pushing each other to improve, not being petty. So I think it’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out this last week. But I think it’s been a pretty good group.”
Montravius Adams finds himself in the driver’s seat for a role on the defensive line. At one point, he joined the team during the middle of the season. But last year proved Adams could play with the Steelers full-time in a significant role. However, he still finds himself on the edge of the roster.
The crazy thing? Adams has little worry about what happens. The brotherhood Austin spoke of is true, Adams says, and if he can pass along some knowledge and lessons to younger players, he considers his job a success. Adams understands the business if he gets cut, acknowledging that it could happen, but he can not harbor ill will.
“In my honest opinion, when you look at it that way (as a competition), that brings on a negative aspect,” Adams said. “When you look at it as a band of brothers, take the competition out; we all are growing and developing together. It’s about tape for all 32 teams. It’s about trying to help the next man grow and make another team if he can’t make this one. When you understand those aspects, it takes out the small things. After this last preseason game, guys have to get cut; it just is what it is. If I can help develop a guy, and I’m the one who got cut, I’m fine with that. I want to help other guys’ careers go further. The younger guys, I want to help them; if I get cut, that’s fine with me. While I’m here, all I can do is do what I can do and keep playing?”
That’s the type of mentality that Adams embraces. For him, this defensive line room is “one of the closest rooms” he has ever seen in his football career. Breiden Fehoko backed that up. The players look to see each other improve and play better. They care little about what happens after the cut-down day. It will inevitably happen, but with eight guys pushing each other, someone will be on the outside looking but would seem primed to make an NFL roster.
“It’s healthy, the competition,” Fehoko said. “My last three years in the league have all been in rooms where there are competitive guys, you’re always competing for a roster spot. It’s nothing new to me. It brings out the best in guys and puts them in positions they haven’t been before. I’ve always been known as a one-two down guy, a run plugger, well, I get an opportunity to showcase in nickel and dime packages to rush after the passer. It’s been awesome”
Who gets cut is anyone’s guess, but the battle between Armon Watts, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Fehoko, and Adams rages on until Pittsburgh has to cut bait with the players later this month. The team will brace for losing a quality player, but the room as a whole should come out for the better of it.