From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#15 Gregory Rousseau/ EDGE/ Miami – 6’7, 265lb
-Has experience playing as an edge defender, as a 3-technique, and even in the 1-gap on passing downs
-Occasionally stood up on the edge as a linebacker and would drop back as a spy or cover the flat
-His impressive arm length aids in his ability to get hands on the offensive lineman for initial shock and leverage
-Able to stack and shed at the point of attack well with his rush
-Too fast and athletic for guards when lined up on the inside of the line with the dip/rip on their outside shoulder
-Able to go for the strip with his impressive wingspan even while still engaged with a blocker
-Wins often on twists or stunts inside where he angles in through the gap
-Provides strong pursuit from the backside of the formation and will pursue downfield
-Physically abuses TEs in the run game and in pass protection with his strength and power
-Played on the FG block unit with his long frame aiding in this area
-Get off is fairly average as speed and burst don’t wow you for the position
-Won often on 2nd effort/extended plays with his rush rather than high-caliber pass rush moves
-Doesn’t win with the outside rush as often as you would like to see from a top edge prospect
-Lack of explosiveness off the snap limits his ability to get around the corner
-Can stand up tall when initial rush fails on the outside
-Redshirt Sophomore prospect from Coconut Creek, Florida
-Extremely long frame (6’7) and wingspan with room to add more mass (265lb)
-Played both sides of the ball as a prep, anchoring the defensive line while also being recognized as one of the better receivers in the state of Florida and even dabbled in playing some safety
-Played as a rotational player as a true freshman before an ankle injury cost him the rest of the season
-Broke out as a redshirt freshman, starting every game and filling up the stat sheet in TFLs (19.5), Sacks (15.5), and forcing 2 fumbles
-Selected to All-ACC First Team in 2019 and named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year
Gregory Rousseau is a physical specimen at the EDGE position with the length and wingspan that could convince others that he is a basketball prospect. Despite playing on the defensive line for the Hurricanes, he initially started out as a safety and wide receiver as a prep, transitioning to EDGE his senior year. Rousseau had his true freshman season cut short due to injury but came back in a big way the next year, being near the NCAA lead in both sacks and TFLs after starting every game. Rousseau’s length is his greatest asset, as his long arms allow him to get 1st contact on offensive linemen with regularity. Here he engages the TE head up, stacks and sheds him, and rips around the pulling guard coming from the opposite side right into the QB’s lap.
His size allowed him to line up all over the formation, with him playing on the edge, at the 3-tech, and even head up on the center where he would crash through the 1-gap. On this play, he lines ups outside shade of the center on 3rd down and proceeds to the B-gap across the right guard’s face, blowing right past him with a rip move and getting to the QB and forcing the ball lose.
He is strong at stacking and shedding on contact and utilizes the dip/rip or slap/rip well when rushing inside on less athletic guards. He wins most of his match-ups on the inside or when sent inside on stunts or twists in exotic blitzing schemes where he gets a free lane to the QB. Here is one of the few sacks he had against Florida State’s dreadful line where he abused the guards all game, lining up nearly head up on the center then looping outside to the guard, hitting him with a slap/rip move and running right by him for the easy takedown.
His long arms aid in his reach to impact the passer and has been able to pop the ball out even when engaged with a blocker. For example, on this play against Louisville, he engages with the tackle, notices the ball is coming out quick to the flat, and he gets his long arm up in the passing lane to knock down the ball at the line.
Despite all of his success on the stat sheet, Rousseau hardly ever won with speed off the edge or by utilizing effective pass rush moves on offensive tackles. Here he hesitates on his rush off the snap, stands up, and crashes inside into his defensive tackle, making it easy for the tackle to washing him down and seal him off. Rousseau loses outside contain and Bryce Perkins takes off for the first down.
He often found himself in the QB’s lap thanks to second effort plays where the pass protection broke down and he continued pursuit. This can be seen as both a positive due to his effort to play through the whistle, but also a negative in terms of getting “technique sacks vs coverage sacks”.
Rousseau also lacks the bend and quick twitch to turn the corner as an edge rusher. Here in the game vs Virginia, he has a decent get off, but gets high in his rush, standing up and exposing his torso. He tries to rip through, but he has no leverage and the offensive tackle neutralizes him from making a play.
Overall, Rousseau is a tantalizing prospect with the athletic traits you crave in an edge defender. He provides a strong presence vs the run and is a good chess piece when kicked inside to rush the passer. However, his lack of ability to disengage and win on the outside vs college competition is concerning for his prospects at the next level vs higher-caliber blockers. Sure, Rousseau is raw at the position and has time to grow into his new role, but this means he shouldn’t be expected to come in Day 1 as a team’s #1 pass rusher.
He would do best to be a rotational piece along the defensive line his 1st season with a veteran leader on the defensive line to learn and develop before earning a full-time starting gig. Figuratively, he could play as a standup outside linebacker for the Steelers defense and kick inside on “NASCAR” passing downs thanks to his athleticism and ability to make zone drops as he has shown. However, he doesn’t really fit the mold of what the Steelers look for, not being able to win on the outside and seems like too much of a project for a team needing to win now. He would be a better fit for a 4-3 team that uses multiple pass rushers in different formations both inside and outside. The upside is immense with Rousseau, but there is also some bust potential if he is thrown into the fire too early or played out of scheme.
Projection: Late Day 1 -to- Early Day 2
Games Watched: at Virginia (2019), at Florida St (2019), vs Central Michigan (2019), vs Virginia Tech (2019), vs Louisville (2019)