5 free agent defensive lineman Steelers could sign before the talent pool dries up

Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars
Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

As the NFL's legal tampering period begins, let's explore potential defensive line additions the Steelers could consider. With Cam Heyward nearing retirement and uncertainty surrounding Larry Ogunjobi's future in Pittsburgh, bolstering the defensive front becomes crucial for the team.

The talent pool will soon dry up as some of the top names on the market have already agreed to contracts with new teams. However, these remaining interior defenders could catch the Steelers' attention.

1: DJ Reader, Cincinnati Bengals

In a situation reminiscent of Larry Ogunjobi's acquisition two years ago, the Steelers might consider bringing in a familiar face from the AFC North in DJ Reader. Despite tearing his quadricep in Week 15 and battling injuries in recent years, Reader has proven to be a highly impactful player when healthy.

Given his injury concerns and the quad injury, many teams may approach him with caution, creating an opportunity for the Steelers to pursue a one-year deal, mirroring the approach they took with Ogunjobi.

At 29, Ogunjobi and Reader are the same age. Pittsburgh may consider a more conservative contract approach, possibly a one-year deal with the option to extend for 2-3 years based on performance or explore options to infuse younger talent into the position.

While Reader's age and recent injury might deter the Steelers from offering a substantial long-term contract, the quad injury could lower his current market value. As with any free agent signing, don't expect the Steelers to make a splash with a hefty contract. However, considering their financial flexibility, this could be a move that makes practical sense.

Securing a solid player on a more affordable contract, where he can outperform his value, is a realistic possibility. Adding Reader to the defensive line alongside Heyward, Benton, and potentially Ogunjobi would fortify an already talented defense. Furthermore, this move would not only bolster the Steelers but also weaken a divisional rival, making the move even more enticing.

2: Javon Kinlaw, San Francisco 49ers

The Steelers look to add a younger player to their roster with the potential signing of Javon Kinlaw, hoping he can live up to his first-round pick status. Despite a somewhat uneven career and a backup role this past season in San Francisco, Kinlaw brings significant upside for a player with a history of inconsistency, making him one to watch. His skill set aligns with what the Steelers seek in their defensive linemen, but he needs some refinement to become a complete player.

At 26, Kinlaw would bring much-needed youth to a defense in need of rejuvenation. The anticipated deal would likely be a short-term commitment, possibly a 1-2 year agreement, without breaking the bank. With his best career year recorded this past season, there's optimism that Kinlaw will continue to improve.

While he faces challenges in the run game, his effectiveness as a pass rusher adds a valuable dimension. This potential signing offers a practical opportunity to secure a player on the upswing, providing a cost-effective solution.

3: Mike Danna, Kansas City Chiefs

Another potentially underrated player seeking a bigger payday is Mike Danna. A key player in the Chiefs' recent Super Bowl win, he showcases versatility in Steve Spagnuolo's scheme.

Danna has been a consistently underrated yet crucial player for Kansas City, often stepping up in times of injury. With the Chiefs investing in their defensive line and Chris Jones securing a new deal, Danna is likely to test the open market.

At 27, he brings valuable experience and flexibility across the defensive line. This signing would likely lead to Ogunjobi's release but also provide the Steelers with a starter for the next couple of years.

This move would pair extremely well with Keeanu Benton and allow Mike Tomlin and Teryl Auston to find creative ways to use the two of them. Although not a budget signing, securing Danna could be a wise investment, given his championship experience and proven production.

4: Jerry Tillery, Las Vegas Raiders

Recently released by the Las Vegas Raiders, former 1st-round pick Jerry Tillery emerges as a potential depth addition. With the size and experience to be productive in limited snaps, he provides an insurance policy against injuries.

The Steelers, known for revisiting players from their draft interest, could bring him in for the upcoming season. While a cost-effective short-term option, Tillery isn't seen as a long-term solution for the future and is more like a quick depth fix in 2024.

5: Raekwon Davis, Miami Dolphins

Raekwon Davis emerges as another potential depth piece, particularly as a massive DT standing at 6’7 and 335 pounds. A former 2nd-round pick from Alabama, Davis could reunite with former coach Karl Dunbar. His substantial size makes him an effective Nose Tackle capable of occupying space and handling double teams.

The Steelers haven't had such a big-bodied nose tackle on their roster for quite some time. Considering Benton's shorter stature, Davis could bring a different dynamic as a rotational piece, aiding in run support and allowing Benton to take snaps as a DE.