Because the NFL calendar churns onward towards more OTAs, minicamp, training camp after which the beginning of the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have one glaring hole overall on the roster that needs addressed, in keeping with one NFL.com author.
That hole happens to reside behind reigning Defensive Player of the 12 months T.J. Watt and promising third-year linebacker Alex Highsmith within the No. 3 OLB role on the Steelers’ 3-4 defense. Currently, the Steelers have veterans Genard Avery and Derrek Tuszka on the roster, with Tuszka serving because the special teams player of the 4, handling heavy duties there, reasonably than seeing quite a few snaps on the sting.
Avery has played his justifiable share of snaps on the boundary and has held up relatively well overall throughout his profession, but in keeping with NFL.com analyst Marc Sessler, the Steelers must pinpoint pass rush help behind Watt and Highsmith this summer in the shape of a veteran free agent signing, whether that’s before training camp or after cutdown day ahead of the regular season.
If the Steelers determine to play Avery on the sting, I believe he’ll make an excellent impact on rotational snaps as a run defender. Really sound, smart football player on this area. Can avoid blocks thoroughly too, despite smaller frame. pic.twitter.com/6N1JqJznld
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) March 30, 2022
“The Steelers spent their draft reloading on offense, grabbing quarterback Kenny Pickett at No. 20 overall before choosing a pair of wideouts in Georgia’s George Pickens and Calvin Austin III out of Memphis. The overhaul of Pittsburgh’s attack is underway, but roster holes remain on the opposite side of the ball,” Sessler writes. “The Steelers are paper thin at outside linebacker beyond T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Were either to miss time, the Steelers can’t count on Genard Avery or Derrek Tuszka to fill the gap. It’s a tricky time of 12 months to seek out help, but camp cuts could bring a solution. The Steelers specialize at filling gaps with chip-on-their-shoulder veterans.”
Last summer within the weeks ahead of coaching camp, the Steelers signed veteran Melvin Ingram II to a one-year deal in hopes of him being the stout No. 3 OLB on the roster behind Watt and Highsmith. Things worked out well for the primary few weeks as Ingram saw more playing time than expected as a consequence of injuries to Watt and Highsmith. Eventually though, Ingram wanted out, landing with the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade deadline deal involving a sixth-round pick coming back to the Steelers.
Kudos to Derrek Tuszka. Registered his first NFL sack yesterday. And it was an enormous one. Fought through a hold for a strip/sack on the Titans’ final drive, putting them into third and 15 that led to Joe Haden’s 4th down stop. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/8AJvSYo2u5
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 20, 2021
Pittsburgh desperately must avoid that sort of situation this summer, however the market is comparatively bare in the meanwhile. Current free agents at outside linebacker that fit a real 3-4 scheme include the likes of Pernell McPhee, Tuzar Skipper, Derek Roberson, Takkarist McKinley — who’s working his way back from a torn Achilles — Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, and Alex Okafor simply to name just a few.
There’s actually some intriguing names there, especially with Kerrigan, Houston and McPhee, however the Steelers might opt and wait to grab up a veteran following roster cuts in late August as teams must get all the way down to the 53-man roster limits ahead of the regular season.
Though it’s anyone’s guess as to who may very well be available on cutdown day, or who would even interest the Steelers, it’s pretty clear the Steelers must add one other veteran to the surface linebackers room, avoiding the problems the Steelers handled down the stretch after trading Ingram from a depth and level of play concern overall.