Ex-Steelers LB L.J. Fort Has Thrived with Ravens

LJ Fort Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images L.J. Fort reacts after a defensive stop against the Cleveland Browns on October 28, 2018.

When former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort signed a three-year, $5.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019, he thought he’d found a relatively permanent NFL home. But Philadelphia released Fort just four games into his tenure with the Eagles, during which time he didn’t play a single snap on defense. The Eagles made the surprise move—at least in part—to preserve a fourth-round compensatory pick, but getting released “definitely shocked” Fort, 30, who went on to sign with the Baltimore Ravens just three days later.

L.J. Fort: Impact Player for the Ravens?

It didn’t take long for Fort to make a positive impression in Baltimore. Less than a month after arriving he signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract extension that takes him through the 2021 season. In the time since, he has been an impact player for the Ravens, not just on special teams, but on defense. Never mind that the Ravens drafted two inside linebackers in the 2020 draft, namely first-round pick Patrick Queen (Louisiana State) and third-round pick Malik Harrison (Ohio State).

According to Pro Football Focus, Fort has played 184 snaps on defense this season, with 72 run defense snaps, 24 pass rush snaps, and 88 coverage snaps. More notably, he is Baltimore’s fourth-leading tackler, with 20 solo stops and seven assists, plus one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 22 yards for a touchdown against the Houston Texans.

L.J. Fort’s NFL Journey

L.J. Fort (6-foot-0, 232 pounds) came into the NFL in 2012 when he was signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to the Steelers in the summer of 2015, Fort spent time with the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots. He found relative stability in Pittsburgh, appearing in 44 games with two starts over a period of four years. During that time frame he was credited with 63 total tackles (50 solo), with five tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits, two sacks, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

Fort’s biggest moment in a Steelers uniform came when fellow linebacker T.J. Watt had a strip-sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and he recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

Steelers fans can expect to see much more of Fort on defense than they did in last year’s Steelers-Ravens games. Fort played exclusively on special teams during Baltimore’s 26-23 overtime win in Pittsburgh on October 6, 2019. During last year’s season-finale, a 28-10 Ravens win, Fort had just one tackle and one assist.

Know too that Philadelphia’s decision to release Fort to preserve a compensatory pick forced the Steelers to release wide receiver Donte Moncrief to preserve a 2020 compensatory draft pick of their own. That preserved pick turned out to be outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, selected near the end of the third round (#102 overall). Highsmith is in line to replace Bud Dupree at one of the team’s outside linebacker positions, assuming Dupree leaves in free agency after this season.

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