ESPN announced this afternoon that Chris Hoke plans on announcing his retirement at a news conference.
This is a huge blow to the Steelers. A neck injury and subsequent surgery earlier in the season has ended his career. Hoke was a staple for the Steelers as a backup to Hampton at nose tackle.
With Hampton potentially being let go for cap room, this leaves a 320lb hole in the middle of the defensive line. ESPN notes that the Steelers were 17-1 when Hoke started. Some big shoes to fill. The Steelers aren’t without options. McClendon is an option as well as the dependable Ziggy Hood moving over to NT. Hampton could stay should he restructure his contract, but chances are he’s gone before camp starts. Hoke’s retirement could have a ripple effect for the draft as well. The Steelers, poised to potentially pick a LB, safety or O-lineman in the first couple of rounds, could find themselves reordering where they go with their first pick. Rookie Cam Heyward is developing, but is he enough to allow even Hood to make a move to NT? Bottom line – the defensive line is thinned out with this retirement and it’s something the Steelers can’t just ignore over the next couple of months.