Steelers: Opportunity strikes for L.T. Walton


When the Steelers selected Leterrius Walton in the sixth round of this year’s draft, it was to add some much-needed depth to their roster of defensive ends. Though they have definite starters in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, the depth they once possessed has been riddled with holes after retirements and players claimed off of the practice squad.

The 6’5″, 319 pound defensive lineman brought a sigh of relief to many when he was finally selected. The cornerback and safety positions were thought to be the most important on defense needing to be addressed in the draft, but defensive end also ranked high on that list in terms of importance.

Hailing from the same alma mater as Antonio Brown, Central Michigan University, the Steelers pride themselves on finding big talent from small schools. In the near forty games that Walton appeared in, he accumulated six sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and 18.5 tackles for loss. Not exactly staggering numbers, but Walton presents a high motor and the ability to find the ball carrier.

Injuries have struck again this offseason leaving opportunities for Walton, and the rest of the Steelers’ young defensive ends, ripe for the taking. In early August Clifton Geathers was placed on the Injured/Reserve list. This left the Steelers down a veteran backup to rotate out their starters with and more questions than they had answers for.

In last Sunday’s victory against the Green Bay Packers, Tuitt would be added to the list of casualties the Steelers have found themselves with as the preseason continues.

Though Tuitt’s injury is thankfully not as severe as center Maurkice Pouncey’s, who will miss more than half the season after having surgery to repair a broken fibula, there is still cause for concern.

Tuitt’s injury has him listed to only miss a couple of weeks of action, but ankle injuries almost never heal as fast as they are intended to. While hearing that a starter at any position will miss time on the field is never a positive thing, this gives Walton two games of appearing more frequently in the lineup to make his presence felt.

Walton is not the only one who will benefit from Tuitt being sidelined. Defensive ends Matt Conrath, Ethan Hemer, Joe Kruger, and Joe Okafor have the opportunity to see more action for the remainder of the preseason. Conrath and Hemer have been the most productive of the list with each having sacked an opposing quarterback.

Cam Thomas presents the biggest opposition in terms of Walton seeing time on the field. One of many free agent signings made by the Steelers in 2014, he struggled mightily in his first year with the team. It has been reported that he has improved drastically since then, and looks to rebound from his disastrous initial outing.

With only three tackles to his credit so far in the preseason it is imperative that Walton begin to show signs of relevance as the regular season rapidly approaches. If his competition continues to outshine him he may fall victim to roster cuts that begin in September.

This would lead to him being placed on the practice squad and potentially being picked up by another team. Such happened to 2014 fifth rounder Wesley Johnson last year when he was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets.

The Steelers’ final two preseason games are against the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers. As roster cuts are made we will see if Walton can put himself into contention to make a push for a spot on the final 53 man roster. There is much talent in the young man who can be utilized as the organization continues to rebuild their defense.

Leterrius Walton presents great run stuffing ability on a defensive line that is in desperate need of young players to step up and make the transition to the professional level. The Steelers have made great additions to their roster in the late rounds of the draft in previous seasons, and this one looks to be another talented individual who will aid the defense for years to come.

Next: Steelers: Tuitt, Legursky, Roethlisberger

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