With the Pittsburgh Steelers focusing heavily on the offensive side of the ball during the course of the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s understandable that they were not able to address every possible need on the other side. They only used two of their seven draft picks on defenders, with third-round defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal the only draft pick earlier than round six.
After failing to address the secondary, the Steelers even quickly turned around and signed veteran free agent safety Damontae Kazee shortly afterward. One area lacking quality depth, however, remains the outside linebacker position, at least in the opinion of Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. He writes:
The Steelers have little depth behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker. Now, they probably can get away with Derek Tuszka as an in-game swing outside linebacker, but if any sort of injury occurs to Watt or Highsmith, they are in dire straits. The Steelers were in a similar position last year, when they signed veteran free agent Melvin Ingram right before camp, so that could be the avenue they ultimately take. But something surely has to be done.
It’s not clear why Kaboly mentioned only Tuszka when it seems rather obvious that the somewhat recently signed Genard Avery would be positioned to be their number three edge defender behind Watt and Highsmith. Avery is not much of a pass rusher, unfortunately, but he can set the edge against the run.
Another experienced veteran at the position is John Simon, whom they acquired late last season, having spent time all around the league, even starting in Baltimore in 2013. He is perhaps best known for a three-year stint with the New England Patriots in 2018-2020.
But he played in all of three games last season, two for the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers did employ Tuszka and Taco Charlton as their top two reserve pass-rushers at the end of last season following the trade of Melvin Ingram.
Would it have been great if they could have added a quality edge prospect in the draft? Of course. The Bengals ended up getting one that we liked, I believe, in the seventh round. I certainly would have preferred Jeffrey Gunter over raw inside linebacker Mark Robinson.
Pittsburgh did add two edge rushers as college free agents, whom we will shortly see in rookie minicamp, in Tyree Johnson and T.D. Moultry. I don’t need to tell you that the team does have a pretty good track record of finding college free-agent pass rushers who can at least manage to make the roster. That list includes even Jamir Jones just last year, though he didn’t last long—swapped out for Tuszka.