Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OLB Derrek Tuszka
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: It’s not entirely clear how Derrek Tuszka’s positioning has been affected positively or negative in the wake of the 2022 NFL Draft, with the team signing two outside linebackers as college free agents and subsequently waiving veteran John Simon.
What does it say that, when the Steelers elected to let an outside linebacker go, they parted with veteran John Simon instead of Derrek Tuszka, a second-year player who, as a college free agent rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2020, only played on special teams?
What does it say that the Steelers did not draft an outside linebacker, but did sign two as college free agents, whom they seem to like? What does it say that they signed Genard Avery prior to the draft as a free agent—and did not re-sign Taco Charlton?
Where does this leave Derrek Tuszka? Overall, perhaps, pretty good. Obviously, if you look at the roster right now, you have to like his chances of making the team. Behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, Avery is the clear number three, but behind him is just Tuszka and the two undrafted rookies, who, of course, have yet to do anything. And, again, they already chose (at least, I’m assuming ‘chose’) not to bring back Charlton after last season.
There are certainly outside linebackers the Steelers could have drafted late in the 2022 NFL Draft. The one that Cincinnati Bengals drafted comes to mind, as it often the case. They didn’t. Art Rooney II also didn’t mention outside linebacker as an area they viewed as a draft priority.
So do they like Tuszka’s potential that much? Of course, they’re only looking for depth here, because they already have their starters. And Tuszka was a significant component of their special teams last year and would be expected to continue that this year.
To his credit, he did seem to grow as he played more late in the season, even managing a couple of sacks. But we won’t know truly what they think of him until September, perhaps, as they could very much choose to address this position by adding a veteran, even via trade, which they commonly do in August.