A rare type of defensive linemen will temp Steelers in the NFL Draft

This dying breed of interior defenders will tempt Pittsburgh early in the draft.
Florida v LSU
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Things didn't go as planned late in Kevin Colbert's tenure as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger playing on his last legs and the window to make a playoff run slamming shut, Colbert seemed more concerned about filling holes than building the foundation of his roster.

This was evident when he used his first-round picks on positions like linebacker (Devin Bush), safety (Terrell Edmunds), and running back (Najee Harris). As a result of drafting for need, Colbert too often misevaluated the talent early in the draft.

Now the Steelers are looking to get back to their roots under the direction of new GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl. These two front office heads seem to be adamant about building their team through the trenches.

Weidl and Khan have size thresholds that they have been looking for when it comes to offensive tackles, but on the defensive line, they will be tempted by one very specific type of interior defender.

Steelers will value tall and long defensive linemen in the NFL Draft

Thanks to charting Pittsburgh's NFL Combine meetings and Top 30 pre-draft visits, we can gauge what the Steelers are looking for on the defensive line. This team has met with Missouri's Darius Robinson, Florida State's Braden Fiske, and LSU's Maason Smith.

Most of the players this team has expressed interest in fit a very specific mold when it comes to body type. Robinson measured in at the NFL Combine at 6'5 1/8'' with a massive 84 3/8'' wingspan (95th percentile, according to Mockdraftable). Smith had an even larger frame (6'5 1/8'', 305 lbs, 34 5/8'' wingspan).

It's not hard to see why the Steelers have an interest in targeting this type of defensive lineman in the 2024 NFL Draft. This body type is very similar to that of players like Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt coming out of college.

At the 2011 NFL Combine, Heyward didn't necessarily have the desired weight (294 lbs), but his 6'5'' frame and 34 1/4'' arms made the oversized base defensive end intriguing as a 5-technique for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tuitt (6'5'', 304 lbs, 34 3/4'' arms) was a similarly intriguing conversion prospect who played inside and outside at Notre Dame.

These types of players don't always explode upon entry to the NFL, but with a little bit of patience, they have the frame and length to put on muscle mass without losing quickness. Their length helps them stack and shed against more compact guards and centers.

The Steelers aren't yet desperate for interior defensive line help. They hit on Keeanu Benton in the second round last year, and Cameron Heyward may still be around for a few more years (despite turning 35 years old this offseason).

Still, these interior defenders who are tall, long, and strong are somewhat of a rare breed in today's NFL, and Pittsburgh is looking to get back to their roots in the trenches. Don't be surprised if the Steelers take a defensive lineman who fits this profile in the early rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft.