Will the Steelers go after a defensive lineman early in this draft?
Though the Steelers defense struggled for much of 2015, one area emerged as a bright spot: the defensive line.
Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt combined for 13.5 sacks on the year and were both a force in a run defense that was fifth in the league. But outside of these two young thoroughbreds, the rest of the defensive line was average at best.
Steve McLendon had another so-so season while Cam Thomas made about $222,222 per tackle in 2015 (his salary was $2 million). They now hit free agency, but McLendon is the only one with any chance of returning to the Steelers.
But if McLendon doesn’t resign the only other d-linemen to see significant time in 2015 is big Daniel McCullers who has yet to find his way in the NFL other than being really hard to move. Could the Steelers add depth to the line in this year’s deep defensive draft.
Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Vernon Butler could be all that and more for the Steelers. Butler played everywhere on the line for the Bulldogs in his four years, becoming a full-time starter in 2014.
To go along with his versatility, Butler can be unblockable. His combination of speed off the ball and upper body strength allows him to blow past offensive lineman. Over his four years, Butler racked 28.5 tackles for loss, including 22.5 over his final two years.
Even if he is double teamed, he is able to either fight it off or eat the double preventing lineman from climbing up to the linebackers. Butler has great hand movement and placement, which not only benefits him in the run game but the passing game.
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He can rush from anywhere on the defensive line using his tremendous athleticism. His bull rush and swim move devastated Conference USA linemen. His was due to his freakishly large arms. However, he only totaled five sacks in his career.
Still, Butler was named first team all-conference his junior and senior year. He also made several preseason award watch lists in 2015, but failed to gain any national hype.
Adding Butler to the great duo of Heyward and Tuitt would be a great addition for the Steelers. He is a much better penetrator than McLendon and more versatile.
Like Tuitt was in his rookie season, Butler may need a season under his belt until he provides the impact the Steelers need. But with the type of talent he possesses, Butler will be a force in the steel city for years to come.