The Pittsburgh Steelers will have several pressing needs in the 2023 NFL Draft, but the interior defensive line is becoming a bigger issue than we thought it would be.
It’s hard to believe how fast things can turn around in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a dominant defense in 2019 and 2020, but the numbers from this once-stellar unit have plummeted over the past two seasons. There is plenty of blame to share, but much of this falls on the abysmal performance of the interior defensive line.
Just three years ago in 2019, many NFL analysts would argue that the Steelers had the best interior DL in the league. This was a unit that consisted of prime Cameron Heyward with budding stars in Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave — not to mention a much younger, fresher Tyson Alualu.
Today, things look much different. Outside of an aging Cam Heyward, the interior defensive line seems to be void of talent. Rookie DL DeMarvin Leal has shown promise but is in a limited role after spending much of the year on IR with a knee injury. Outside of him, there might not be another player this team can build around.
Larry Ogunjobi has been just so-so for the Steelers in his first year, but he’s a free agent after the season and Pittsburgh shouldn’t overpay to bring him back. Meanwhile, Chris Wormley was just an average player before the knee injury against the Ravens, while second-year player Isaiahh Loudermilk has been very underwhelming when he has seen the field. Montravius Adams and Tyson Alualu are not worth a roster spot at this point.
Steelers must address IDL early in the NFL Draft
There is no shortage of needs on this lackluster Steelers roster, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Pittsburgh must address the interior defensive line early in the 2023 NFL Draft. Even if Leal turns out to be a quality football player, that still only leaves them one player they can build around.
Heyward will turn 34 years old early in the offseason, and the team needs to start planning to find his predecessor. The interior DL has been so bad for Pittsburgh this year that I’m not convinced that anyone should be guaranteed a roster spot next season outside of Heyward and Leal.
Even with their ranging needs, taking an interior defender in the first round isn’t completely out of the question. This is something that must be considered if Pittsburgh winds up selecting high enough to take a player like Georgia DL Jalen Carter in the 2023 NFL Draft. Bryan Bresee from Clemson is another premier prospect that must be considered in round one.
If the defensive line isn’t addressed with their first pick, I would almost bet that they would take one with one of their second-rounders. If there’s one thing we know that Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II can’t stand, it’s getting steamrolled on the ground. This just isn’t the Steelers way.
Like it or not, some unfortunate circumstances have gotten Pittsburgh to a place where the defensive line must be addressed early in the NFL Draft. This unit has rapidly declined over the past two seasons, and the Steelers can’t afford to let it get any worse.