Don't expect big things from Steelers recent defensive tackle additions
By Tommy Jaggi
Early in the 2023 free agency period, Omar Khan and Andy Weidl took the liberty of beefing up the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive trenches with players like Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo. Over the past week, the front office added some girth to the interior defensive line.
After signing a run-defending nose tackle in Breiden Fehoko back on April 4th, Pittsburgh added another interior defender in former Bears and Vikings defensive tackle, Armon Watts.
Some fans were quick to get excited about this move. The interior defensive line was obviously a major liability on the defense this past season, and theoretically, adding a pair of 300-pounders in Watts and Fehoko could help. But I wouldn't be too sure about that.
Steelers aren't getting much of anything out of DT additions
Honestly, I don't think the Steelers are getting much of anything with these signings. Let's start with Armon Watts. At 6'4 1/2'' and listed at 307 pounds, the big defensive tackle started 12 of 17 games for Chicago last season.
Over the past two seasons on both the Bears and Vikings, he has recorded an impressive 1,202 defensive snaps. Sadly, the results have not been promising. Despite significant usage, Watts recorded just 1 sack and 4 tackles for a loss this past season, via ESPN stats. His game was also void of any splash plays like forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, or pass deflections.
Fehoko has been even more unnoticeable. Though his role was a bit different as a nose tackle for the Chargers over the past three seasons, Fehoko has only recorded 1 tackle for a loss to go with zero sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, or pass deflections on 420 career defensive snaps.
What's worse is that, in addition to being incredibly inefficient at getting after the quarterback, we can't even claim that either player is a good run defender by NFL standards. According to Pro Football Focus, Watts had a run defense grade of 44.8 in 2022. This ranked 112th out of 143 qualifying interior defenders. Fehoko, who is known for being a player who defends the run, had a run defense grade of just 50.0 (ranked 96th).
Of the two defensive tackles, Watts is more likely to see the field for Pittsburgh in 2023, as he at least offers a better blend of size and traits, but even he was just a 37th percentile athlete coming out of Arkansas in 2019, per Relative Athletic Score.
Odds are that both of these players won't make the roster. The Pittsburgh Steelers are simply covering their bases here when it comes to interior defensive line depth, and these additions certainly don't mean that a defensive tackle isn't on the table early in the NFL Draft. I think it's wise to keep expectations very low for what either player could offer the team in 2023.