Steelers Now Have A Big Chance To Sign Their Next Generational Defensive Lineman

The Pittsburgh Steelers need defensive line help for 2024. News broke on Monday that a star defensive lineman will be on the free agent market for next season and the Steelers would be wise to throw a major contract his way. Christian Wilkins of the Miami Dolphins is not getting a franchise tag from the organization and the 13th overall pick from the 2019 NFL Draft will look to get a big payday in his first time hitting the open market.

Steelers Now Have A Big Chance To Sign Their Next Generational Defensive Lineman

Wilkins registered a career-high nine sacks for the Dolphins in 2023, while adding 10 tackles for a loss and 23 quarterback hits. The cash-strapped Dolphins likely didn’t have the money to commit to Wilkins on a franchise tag. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network  reported the news on Monday afternoon that the Dolphins would let Wilkins hit the open market.

“The Dolphins will not franchise tag standout DT Christian Wilkins, sources say, meaning the long-time pillar of Miami’s defense will be a free agent. Wilkins will be one of the top free agents regardless of position,” Rapoport posted to X.

As Rapoport notes, Wilkins will be one of the top free agents, regardless of position. The Steelers will have a lot of competition for the 28-year-old if they do end up desiring to seek his services. Cameron Wolfe, also of NFL Network, added that he heard from two NFL executives during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that Wilkins is likely to get a top contract for a defensive lineman in the mold of New York Giants star Dexter Lawrence, New York Jets stud Quinnen Williams, and Tennessee Titans star Jeffery Simmons. It could be somewhere in the $22-$25 million range.

Wilkins has been relatively healthy his whole career. He missed just two games in the 2020 season. He showed up on the Dolphins practice report in 2023 with a groin injury, but didn’t miss any time.

Steelers Could Strongly Benefit From Adding Wilkins To Their Front

Steelers Assistant General Manager Andy Weidl came over from the Philadelphia Eagles in May of 2022. The Eagles are famous for their successful rotation of defensive linemen in and out to try to keep fresh bodies on the field. Adding another stud to Pittsburgh’s defensive line could help the team recreate some of the Eagles’ magic strategy. Pittsburgh has a huge need to add more to that room and Wilkins would be a great addition.

Larry Ogunjobi and Cam Heyward are coming off less-than-stellar seasons in 2023. Heyward struggled with injuries all year and never quite looked like himself on the field. Ogunjobi dealt with nagging injuries during the 2022 season, but only missed one game. He played a full 17-game season in 2023. Despite doubling his sack total from 1.5 to three in 2023, he posted only three tackles for a loss in 2023, as opposed to seven the year prior. Ogunjobi will be 30 when the 2024 campaign gets underway, and Heyward will be 35.

The Steelers found a nice piece to add to their defensive line in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Keeanu Benton filled in admirably for Heyward in spades when he had to. He finished his rookie campaign with a sack, a tackle for a loss, and a pair of forced fumbles in nine starts. Head Coach Mike Tomlin said at his season-ending press conference in January that he expects Benton to be able to dominate sooner rather than later.

Elsewhere on the defensive line, the Steelers have a pair of players that have underperformed. DeMarvin Leal hasn’t been able to find a role after being drafted by the team in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He registered his first career sack against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season, but was a healthy scratch for the final three weeks of the season, and the Wild Card playoff game. Isaiahh Loudermilk didn’t start a single game for the team in 2023. The Wisconsin product is likely just a depth lineman at this point, as he has only started five games in three seasons.

The Steelers need more playmakers on the defensive line and getting younger needs to be a priority. Wilkins will not come cheap, but represents a real upgrade for this unit.

Do you like the idea of the Steelers adding Wilkins?

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