Steelers host a Stephon Tuitt doppelganger for Top 30 pre-draft visit

Latest pre-draft visit shows Pittsburgh is getting back to their roots on the defensive line.

Feb 29, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State defensive lineman Maason Smith (DL24) works out
Feb 29, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State defensive lineman Maason Smith (DL24) works out / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are leaving no page unturned ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. After a busy month of March headlined by free agency and a crowded slate of Pro Days, Omar Khan is taking advantage of every opportunity to meet with potential future draftees.

The Steelers have used roughly half of their 30 allouded pre-draft visits. On April 3rd, they welcomed four more players to the facility for meetings: LSU DL Maason Smith, USC WR Tahj Washington, Pitt OL Matt Goncalves, and Pitt CB M.J. Devonshire (the latter two names are local prospects who don't count toward the team's Top 30 visits).

Smith is a particularly polarizing prospect. The big defensive lineman has been banged up throughout his college career at LSU and the redshirt junior has played under 1,000 total snaps in college. After missing nearly the entire 2022 season, Smith was in and out of the lineup for LSU in 2023.

However, the traits are hard to ignore. Smith has a tall and long frame that is rare for an interior defender in today's NFL. While his college production was limited (largely due to injuries), he routinely flashes on tape.

Despite one more year of NCAA eligibility, Smith bypassed the chance to stay healthy and increase his draft stock in 2024. He will enter the NFL Draft, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are intrigued by what he could offer.

Maason Smith pre-draft visit proves Steelers are getting back to their roots at DL

In recent years, the Steelers have shuffled through defensive linemen like Isaiah Buggs, Montravius Adams, and Larry Ogunjobi. Now it looks like Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan are looking to get back to their roots with long, powerful interior defenders.

The Steelers found themselves with a gaping hole on their defensive line when Stephon Tuitt sat out the 2021 season for personal reasons and officially retired in 2022. The anchor next to Cameron Heyward on the interior was gone, and Pittsburgh suffered as a result.

Maason Smith could be a Stephon Tuitt clone. While he's not the same level prospect coming out of college, injury setbacks prevented Smith from being considered a better prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft.

At 6'5 1/8'' and 306 pounds with 35'' arms, Smith has nearly identical size metrics as Tuitt coming out of Notre Dame in 2014. Heyward shared a similar build (6'5'', 294 lbs, 34 1/4'' arms) when the former Ohio State star entered the 2011 NFL Draft.

Nowadays, it's rare to see more than a few DL prospects each year with this type of size and length. Many players who possess this type of build don't see their best years until their late 20s and they only continue to get stronger over time.

Smith isn't the only Top 30 visit with a tall, long frame. The Steelers used a pre-draft visit on Missouri DL Darius Robinson. A college edge defender, Robinson projects as an interior defender in the NFL thanks to his 6'5 1/8'', 285-pound frame and 34 1/2'' arms.

The Pittsburgh Steelers experimented with smaller interior defenders since the departure of Stephon Tuitt, but it looks like Omar Khan is trying to get the team back to their roots. Maason Smith is firmly on the Steelers' draft radar. He could be an option with one of their two third-round picks.