Steelers roster: Which young DL will get released before the 2021 season?

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs (96). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs (96). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several young defensive linemen who could contribute to the team in 2021, but here’s why one is unlikely to make the final cut.

Of all the positions on the team, most would agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently strongest along the interior defensive line. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked them atop the league in their recent 2021 list. It’s not hard to see why.

While most teams typically have one very good interior defensive lineman, the Steelers have several. This group is headlined by the towering pair of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt – quire arguably the best interior DL pairing in the NFL today. Though Tuitt was injured for a majority of the 2019 season, these two have been playing at a Pro Bowl level over the past several seasons.

Behind them, Tyson Alualu graded out as one of the best defensive tackles in the league last year and was a quietly good player at nose tackle for the Steelers, while Chris Wormley – a former 3rd-round pick acquired in a trade with the Ravens last year – is a solid rotational player who could start in the event of an injury to Heyward or Tuitt.

To the surprise of many, the team was able to retain both Alualu and Wormley after they hit the free-agent market this year, and they added another defensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft. Because of this, one young defensive lineman is likely going to be the odd man out. But who will it be?

Steelers DL who are roster locks in 2021

Let’s start with the players who are essential locks to make the roster this season (obviously barring an unforeseen injury that could place them on IR or the PUP list). These include the four aforementioned names: Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley. Alualu will resume his role as the team’s nose tackle as well as a 3-technique rusher in nickel, while Wormley was brought back to be the primary backup for Tuitt and Heyward.

I would also suggest that rookie defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk is a roster lock this year. Despite already being loaded with talent on the defensive line, the Steelers traded a 2022 4th round pick to jump back into the draft and take the big Wisconsin defensive lineman as he started to slip on day three. Loudermilk obviously needs to prove himself, but I can’t see Pittsburgh ditched a player they just spent future draft capital for.

Steelers DL on the roster bubble in 2021

This brings us to the defensive linemen in danger of making the final cut. Last year, the Steelers had just 6 interior defensive linemen on the roster for most of the year. After the four veterans plus rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk makes the team, this would leave just one spot for a defensive lineman on the 53-man roster.

Of course, because of the depth, it’s possible that the Steelers elect to use another spot at the position this year. Unforntaly, that still has at least one 2020 rotational DL missing the cut. The Steelers still have former draft picks Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs who will be fighting for a roster spot as well as Henry Mondeaux.

Who gets the boot?

On Pittsburgh’s initial 2021 depth chart, Buggs is listed as the second-string player behind Tyson Alualu and Mondeaux is listed second-string behind Heyward. Of these three young defensive linemen on the roster bubble, just 2020 draft choice Carlos Davis is listed as third string.

This certainly doesn’t guarantee him to be the odd man out, and it’s important not to read too deeply into the initial depth chart. Because Mondeaux is a bit more versatile with the ability to back up the 5-technique position, Buggs and Davis essentially serve the same purpose on the Steelers as the backup nose tackle, and it seems logical that one of those two may miss out on making the final roster unless Pittsburgh devotes additional spots to the DL this year.

light. Related Story. 3 players trending down early at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp

With three young players jousting for position at the bottom of the roster, it’s possible that just one or two of them make the final 53-man roster. Keep your eye on this battle throughout training camp.