Things don’t always work out the way you expect them to; sometimes it’s better not to have any expectations. But sometimes that defiance of expectations can also fuel you to strive for more.
New Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Quincy Roche didn’t think that he would still be sitting at home waiting for a phone call by the time teams were picking in the sixth round, but there he was. He was pretty honest about his belief that he should have and expected to go earlier.
“I expected to go higher in the draft. I’ll shoot you straight,” he told reporters during his introductory conference call yesterday. “I feel like I was going to go higher. It was a long three days sitting on the couch, but that’s kind of been the story of my life.”
“I wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school,” he added on that note. “I had to work my way into a starting role at Temple, even coming out of Miami. Somehow I became a second fiddle. I’ve always had to prove myself and just work a little bit harder. So it’s nothing new to me.”
To his credit, he did start out by saying that to be drafted at all was a dream and a blessing in and of itself, and that he is fully appreciative and understanding of the opportunity that being selected by an NFL team presents.
It also helps that he is coming into a team that needs him. The Steelers were thin at outside linebacker heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Frankly, they still are until proven otherwise. Of course, they still have T.J. Watt on the top of the depth chart. Since the start of the offseason, though, they also lost six-year starter Bud Dupree and one of their top reserves in Olasunkanmi Adeniyi.
Alex Highsmith projects to succeed Dupree in the starting lineup. The 2020 third-round compensatory draft pick did start the final six games of the season a year ago, including the postseason, after Dupree was injured. While he flashed a lot of potential to be excited about, he also wasn’t a finished product.
The only depth of note that the team retained heading into the draft was Cassius Marsh, a veteran late-season addition in 2020. The journeyman has been in the league since 2014 with seven different teams over that course of time.
The only other linebackers on the depth chart are first-year former college free agents in Christian Kuntz (who is primarily a long snapper) and the recently-signed Jamir Jones. They also signed two rookie college free agents who can play outside, in Jamar Watson and Calvin Bundage.
In other words, Roche has a rather clear path to a roster spot, which is notable as a sixth-round pick, even if he is a sixth-round pick who believes he should have gone a lot higher. After all, last year’s sixth-round selection, Antoine Brooks Jr., did not make the initial 53-man roster a year ago.