Are the Pittsburgh Steelers going to select yet another edge rusher in this year’s draft? It’s really hard to say for sure after they drafted two last year in T.J. Watt and Keion Adams but judging by their annual pre-draft visitor list, it doesn’t appear as though they have much interest in addressing the position this year.
While this year’s Steelers pre-draft visitor list is still short a few names due to a few likely not being reported, to date there have been no true edge-rushers being reported as visiting Pittsburgh with one week to go before the draft takes place.
Currently, the Steelers outside linebacker depth chart includes starters Watt and another former first-round draft pick in Bud Dupree, who is currently waiting to find out if his fifth-year option for the 2019 season will be picked up. Behind those two on the depth chart currently sits Anthony Chickillo, who received an original round restricted free agent tender from the Steelers ahead of the new league year starting in March. Behind Chickillo sits two very inexperienced players in Adams and Farrington Huguenin, who spent the entire 2017 season on the Steelers practice squad.
While Watt certainly appears to be headed in the right direction following a rookie season that included him registering 7 sacks, his starting counter-part, Dupree, has yet to live up to the expectations that come with being a first-round draft pick with three years in the league now behind him. The fact that the Steelers haven’t already announced that they’ll pick up Dupree’s fifth-year option with the early May deadline looming speaks volumes to me. As for Chickillo, a former sixth-round draft pick, he’s just a semi-experienced backup at this point in his career in addition to being a special teams fixture. Depending on how things ultimately play out, both Dupree and Chickillo might not even be with the Steelers a year from now.
While the Steelers probably have hope that both Adams and Huguenin can make the 53-man roster this year, that’s quite high expectations for two players who have yet to play a single regular-season down in the NFL and with one being a former seventh-round selection and the other a former undrafted free agent. Huguenin, by the way, like Dupree, played his college football at Kentucky where he was a one-year starter and registered just 1.5 sacks.
The Steelers 53-man roster last season consisted of five outside linebackers in total as veterans James Harrison and Arthur Moats rounded out the group behind Watt, Dupree and Chickillo. Harrison and Moats are obviously no longer under contract with the Steelers and even if the latter is re-signed in the coming months, there’s no guarantee he’ll stick past August.
In closing, it was disappointing to see the Steelers not bring in any edge-rushers for pre-draft visits over the course of the month of April and it will be even more disappointing a little more than a week from now should the team not ultimately draft one with any of their currently scheduled seven selections. The Steelers have lacked quality sacks and consistent pressure from their outside linebackers for several seasons now so keeping the pipeline full of younger pass rushers with potential upside sure seems like a necessity in 2018 even though they did just draft two such players a year ago.