Would Steelers consider addressing DL in first round of NFL Draft?
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers need to find a new franchise quarterback, but would they consider going with a defensive lineman in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft?
It’s fair to assume that the Steelers are going to be looking for a quarterback during the 2022 offseason. Early in the process, Pittsburgh seems to be expressing a lot of interest in a few quarterback prospects in this year’s draft class, as Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett seem to be high on their radar.
In addition to finding Ben Roethlisberger’s long-term replacement, the Steelers have several other pressing needs at offensive tackle, guard, cornerback, and linebacker. However, one position that we haven’t been paying close enough attention to is the interior defensive line.
If you recall, Pittsburgh was dead last in the NFL last sesaon in both rushing yards allowed per game (143.8) and rushing yards per attempt surrendered (5.0), according to Team Rankings. While there is some hope for optimism that they will improve in this department in 2022, they aren’t guaranteed to be much better.
The Steelers should be getting Tyson Alualu back for the upcoming season. However, Alualu turns 35 years old this offseason and he is coming off a season-ending ankle injury that caused him to miss 15 games last season. Even if Alualu does indeed decide to play out the final year of his contract before retirement, there’s no guarantee he will be the same player we saw two years ago.
Even more concerning is the status of former second-round pick, Stephon Tuitt. The big defensive lineman was entering the prime of his football career before sitting out the 2021 season. Now there are reports that his Pittsburgh home was in the process of being sold and we haven’t heard a peep out of him in a year.
It’s looking like there’s a very good chance Tuitt won’t be part of the future plan in Pittsburgh, and we know that Alualu won’t be around long either. Could the Steelers consider drafting a defensive lineman as early as the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft?
Could Steelers go DL in round one of the NFL Draft?
One thing we’ve learned from Art Rooney II’s post-season press conferences is that the Steelers almost always make an effort to fix their biggest issues early in the NFL Draft. Following the 2020 season, Rooney was adamant that the running game needed to be fixed. So what did the Steelers do? They went out and drafted RB Najee Harris with the 24th overall pick.
This year, Rooney clearly wasn’t pleased with the results of the running game, but he was perhaps even more disappointed in the run defense — an area where the Steelers historically have been very good.
Aside from quarterback, the trenches need as much work as any position on the roster. While I think that Isaiahh Loudermilk could be a quality defensive lineman for this team, I’m not sure if the Steelers view him as the full-time starter next to Cameron Heyward moving forward.
This isn’t a particularly strong class when it comes to interior defenders, but Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis is as good as any run defender we’ve seen enter the league over the past decade. While he may not prove to be a great three-down player at the next level, he could help shut down an entire phase of the opposing team’s offense.
The 20th overall pick might be a little rich for a two-down run-stuffer… but then again, so was taking a 23-year-old running back with 718 touches in college, in my mind. Davis would give this team a dominating run defender and would force opponents to be much more one-dimensional.
I would be really surprised if the Steelers elected to go this route with the 20th overall pick this year as they have so many other pressing needs, but there’s no question this team could use some additional help at defensive tackle if Stephon Tuitt doesn’t return.