The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line is by far the strength of the defense. This group has the potential to be a dominant force in 2016. The D-line will be asked once again to provide a good deal of the pass rush for the Steelers. Cameron Heyward had more sacks then any of the edge rushers, leading the team with seven. Pittsburgh added some depth through free agency and the draft in hopes of keeping this group fresh through the entire season.
We can’t talk about the defensive line without first discussing how good Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt were last season. The two of them combined for 13.5 sacks last season, ending up the top two sack producers on the team. Heyward was a clear Pro Bowl snub. Anyone who watched him play saw that he was one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL. Tuitt really came into his own last season, routinely dominating opposing offensive lineman. His emergence gives the Steelers an outstanding pair of defensive ends. Daniel McCullers gets the chance to prove himself at nose tackle this now that the Steelers have moved on from Steve McLendon. Some are down on McCullers for his inconsistent play thus far, but look for a breakout season from the massive 6’7″ 350lb nose tackle. Ricardo Mathews was brought in from the Chargers to add veteran depth to the line. The more exciting addition is third round draft pick Javon Hargrave. Hargrave dominated in his junior year, leading his team with 16 sacks. That’s a number unheard of from a defensive tackle, even one from a small school like South Carolina State. He will likely rotate in and out for Heyward and Tuitt to keep them from wearing out during games. Hargrave may also see time at nose tackle in passing situations to add another threat to pressure the quarterback. Caushaud Lyons and L.T. Walton will battle it out for the final spot on the roster at that position.
The success of the Steelers defense in 2016 will depend largely on this group. There are still major questions on if Pittsburgh can get a pass rush from it’s outside linebackers. The secondary has it’s own questions with so many inexperienced players playing a big role. Expect the defensive line to lead the Steelers to a much improved defense in the upcoming season.