Around the NFL, training camps have finally started opening, but all of Steeler Nation is waiting for the Steelers to report to Latrobe for another great training camp. Here at Steelers N Stuff, we are breaking down each position heading into camp. Now it is time to look at the defensive line.
State of the Defensive Line Position: After the 2013 season ended, the Pittsburgh Steelers made it a priority to address the defensive line during the offseason. Even though the production of Cam Heyward was above the call of duty, guys like Ziggy Hood and Steve McClendon still held the line back from it’s full potential.
In return, the Steelers signed Cam Thomas, a free agent who recently played for the Chargers. The Steelers then took to the draft to get Daniel McCullers from Tennessee and Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame. At 6’7” and 352 pounds, McCullers was the biggest man to come out of college in 2014.
The defensive line looks to have less depth than the other positions. Right now, the Steelers have some questions to answer at camp with who will make the starting defensive line.
A look at the Defensive Line…
Cameron Heyward: In his first season as a starter, Cameron Heyward did not disappoint. For being a 3-4 defensive end, Heyward was still able to rack up five sacks and record 59 tackles. Heyward enters 2014 as a second-year starter and a leader on the defense.
Steve McClendon: In his first season as a starter, Steve McClendon had his problems. In year two, the Steelers are hoping to see a lot more production from McClendon. At 6’4” and 304 pounds, McClendon might get moved around a little more in 2014.
Stephon Tuitt: Tuitt was a dominating force for a majority of the time he was at Notre Dame. In 35 games, Tuitt made 29 career starts and made 127 tackles and 21.5 sacks. The Steelers are hoping that production will transfer over into the pros.
Brian Arnfelt: After going undrafted in 2013, Arnfelt found his way onto the practice squad and was signed onto the active roster last December. Now with a chance to be a starter, Arnfelt must prove his worth in the short period he has been on the team.
Hebron Fangupo: It’s been a long road for Hebron Fangupo to make an NFL roster and in 2014, he will have to do it again. Although he made the roster last season, Fangupo only seen action in four games. In his second full offseason with the Steelers, Fangupo’s production will hopefully go up.
Ethan Hemer: Hemer is an undrafted free agent who played a lot at the University of Wisconsin. Hemer made 42 career starts during his college career and recorded 92 tackles, two sacks, and six pass defenses. It is very hard for a rookie to do well in John Mitchell’s system but perhaps Hemer’s experience will put him in a good spot come camp.
Al Lapauho: Lapauho has bounced around the league a bit before signing a reserve/future contract last January. Lapauho was an undrafted defensive tackle from Utah State in 2013. Since transferring to Utah State, Lapauho started all 26 games and made 66 tackles and four sacks.
Josh Mauro: Mauro is an undrafted free agent from Stanford. Mauro started 11 games as a senior but made 81 career tackles and 11 sacks. He will have his work cut out for him to make this football team.
Daniel McCullers: This big-bodied machine will also have his work cut out for him under defensive line coach John Mitchell. McCullers was a sixth round pick but was productive in his two years at the University of Tennessee.
Roy Philon: Roy Philon played in 47 games with 30 starts. Philon finished with 116 tackles (65 solo), 22.5 TFLs, eight sacks, one pass defensed and one forced fumble.
Nick Williams: Entering his second season, Williams has a lot to prove this camp. Williams spent the entire 2013 season on injured reserve due to a knee injury. Hopefully, for Williams, that injury does not linger.
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