The DL is one area that has received a bit of critisism this season, despite the Steelers lofty NFL Defensive ranking of "Number 1". We must keep in mind that this is a unit that suffered no change for so many years- in fact, the DL only suffered it's first significant change under Tomlin's rule last season when Aaron Smith & Chris Hoke moved on. Before that there has been little, or no change to the players going back to the Cowher-era. So to suffer a few growing pains is expected, as well as still having to deal with the transitioning out of the remaining older players as they become less effective. All in all, it was a commendable season by the DL, but that does not mean it doesn't need to improve- it does, and quickly.

DE BRETT KEISEL: (Under Contract)
16 games started, 26 tackles 20 assists, 4.5 sacks, 0 INT's, 0 FF's 1 FR, 1 PD, 0 TD's

Keisel is getting older, but provided steady play once again to the DL. There was no significant downturn in his game, but at the same time, no significant improvement- which is to be expected for a guy who is 34 years old. His eventual replacement is already on the roster, but his play has not necessitated him being removed from the starting role. He'll be back next season most likely, but we might see him lose some snaps to Heyward over the course of the season.

DE ZIGGY HOOD: (Under Contract)
16 games started, 25 tackles 17 assists, 3 sacks, 0 INT's, 0 FF's 2 FR's, 3 PD's, 0 TD's.

Ziggy's first season as the designated starter, not Aaron Smith's fill-in, and produced a season similar to what Keisel gave us. There are some who want to see more from a former 1st round draft pick- but Chadman is not sure that is fair, as his role will never really give him the 'stats' to justify a 1st round selection. There were still occasions where Hood was being pushed around, and he'll need to continue to get better at leverage, but he's a solid starter on a DL that was, statistically, #1 this season- not a bad effort.

16 games started, 11 tackles 15 assists, 0 sacks, 0 INT's, 0 FF's 0 FR's, 0 PD's, 0 TD's

Casey is starting to really show his age. Seemed to take him a long time to get into the season & early on was showing significant depreciation in his play. Things got a bit better as the season went on, but he is unlikely to be able to be counted on in the future, and he enters the off season as a FA. Chances are, we may have seen the last of Casey as a Steeler- we should remember him as that dominant bull he was in his prime, the perfect 3-4 NT.

DE CAMERON HEYWARD: (Under Contract)
0 games started, 13 tackles 7 assists, 1.5 sacks, 0 INT's, 0 FF's 0 FR's, 0 PD's, 0 TD's

Heyward will be Keisel's eventual sucessor, but right now he isn't a force on the DL. He needs a good off season & then come in & be part of a DE rotation. Physically, he should be the prototype 3-4 DE, and his college career suggests he's a guy that can be disruptive. The Steelers will need him to step it up next season in order to take this defense from 'good' to 'great'.

0 games started, 4 tackles 3 assists, 2 sacks, 0 INT's, 1 FF 0 FR's, 0 PD's, 0 TD's.

McLendon is being counted on to be the next Steeler NT. He has shown some glimpses of being a player, but they are not frequent enough to go into next season feeling super confident if he is the starter. Needs to be stronger against the run to man the middle of the 3-4. He might be more the situational guy than a true starter, but he'll be back- of that, Chadman is sure.

DE AL WOODS: (Under Contract)

Woods is a useful back-up that has been brought back a few times. Not great, not terrible, but cost effective.

NT ALEMEDA TA'AMU: (Under Contract)

This guy COULD be the future at NT. Has the physical tools to be the guy- but that court case coming up is the elephant in the room. Concerningly, his college career was never as dominant as it should have been for a guy his size.

NT HEBRON FANGUPO: (Under Contract)

Brought in very late & signed to a 4 year contract. Is that a sign? Older rookie (28 years old) that played good, at times, in college. Should, at the worst, push Ta'amu in camp.