Steelers Notes: Wormley, Leal, Wallace

Going into the 2021 NFL season, Steelers defensive tackle Chris Wormley had 3.5 career sacks from his time in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. After a fractured ankle landed nose tackle Tyson Alualu on injured reserve, Wormley took advantage of the increased playing time and broke out with seven sacks, good for third on the team behind T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. He also reached career-highs in total tackles (51), tackles for loss (six), and quarterback hits (10).

Despite Wormley’s breakout season as a starter, the arrival of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi could force Wormley back into a reserve role, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. Pittsburgh will likely rely on Ogunjobi to be a more well-rounded lineman, as Wormley tends to lose battles off the snap on running plays. The Steelers defense allowed the most rushing yards of any team last season, and it looks like signing Ogunjobi is a move that will address that.

Here are a couple other notes from the Steel City’s roster breakdown:

  • Rookie third-round pick DeMarvin Leal is another player that could limit Wormley’s playing time. Just as Wormley had spent time as an end with the Ravens and a tackle with the Steelers, Leal provides the versatility to play both inside and outside on the defensive line. If he can impress in camp and the preseason, I’d expect Leal to play more at the start of the season and for the Steelers to lean on Wormley more as the season wears on longer than Leal is used to from 12-game college regular seasons. Otherwise, giving him a bit more time to get adjusted while keeping him fresh for some late-season playing time could be extremely effective, as well. The combination of Leal and Wormley as versatile, athletic defensive line options gives Pittsburgh a couple of possibilities that could really help its defensive line depth.
  • With Joe Haden departing Pittsburgh for free agency, the Steelers have two cornerbacks who could potentially replace Haden as the starter opposite Cameron Sutton┬ánext season. 2021 trade acquisition Ahkello Witherspoon showed a ton of promise to end last season, totaling three interceptions and nine passes defensed in a six-week span. Pittsburgh will likely give him the opportunity to build off of that production for a full season. This leaves free agent signing Levi Wallace as the probable No. 3 cornerback to start the year for the Steelers. During spring practices, Sutton and Witherspoon lined up with the first-team defense on the outside in normal alignments, but, in nickel and dime packages, Sutton would bump inside and Wallace would come in on the outside.
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