The Pittsburgh Steelers made a shocking move Tuesday as part of roster cutdowns to get to 80 players on the active roster, cutting ties with perceived OLB3 Genard Avery, opening up a massive hole on the roster once again.
While the Steelers raised some eyebrows and caused some confusion with the move, the decision by GM Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin to move on from the veteran defender (at least for now) has opened the door for a young pass rusher the team has been intrigued by since claiming him off waivers from the New York Jets following the released of linebacker Ulysees Gilbert with an injury designation.
Since stepping into the mix with the Steelers, Rashed has garnered some attention from the coaching staff for his play on the field, especially against the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday in the second preseason game of the year. His strong play elevated him into some first-team reps at Monday’s practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side prior to the release of Avery.
With a sizable hole on the depth chart, Rashed has a real opportunity in front of him to earn a spot on the 53-man roster as a depth linebacker behind the likes of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. That might not be overly comforting on paper, but on film Rashed brings some juice as a pass rusher and really had a great game against the Jaguars as a run defender.
Let’s dive into some tape from Rashed against the Jaguars, shall we?
One of the first positive reps I saw from Rashed against the run while taking on the Jaguars came on this play late in the first half.
Rashed does a great job of staying outside of the Jags’ right tackle on the stretch run, using his hands to stay clean and slip behind the lineman, combining with rookie DeMarvin Leal and Delontae Scott for the tackle for loss. Too often we haven’t seen some of the younger edge defenders vying for the roster spot use their hands and create separation, but Rashed does a nice job here for extending and getting off the block to make the play.
In the second half, Rashed saw more action and really held his own against the run.
Taking on the tight end who motions in line to square off with Rashed, the Steelers’ outside linebacker does a great job squaring up before the snap, wins early with his hands and sheds the block, drawing a holding penalty in the process. That’s a great job of setting the edge, holding his ground and trying to make a play, helping the Steelers blow up the run play for a loss.
Later in the game, Rashed again showed his ability to shed blocks against the run.
Great job here of setting the edge, forcing the Jacksonville running back back inside to where he has help. To top it all off though, Rashed uses his hands to counter back inside quickly, get clear of the blocker and make the stop against the run on his own, recording the stop at the line of scrimmage.
According to Pro Football Focus, Rashed recorded a grade of 83.3 against the run on Saturday in Jacksonville, which was the highest of any Steeler on the night. As a pass rusher, Rashed wasn’t as good as he was in that department against the Seattle Seahawks in the first preseason game, but he still showed some flashes of what he brings to the table.
With Trevor Lawrence still in the game for Jacksonville behind the starting offensive line, Rashed gets a valuable rep in against the 1s. He does a great job of threatening upfield against the right tackle, getting a good initial punch in at the top of his rush before countering quickly back inside for a pressure on Lawrence on third down, forcing a short throw in front of the sticks, forcing a punt.
Earlier in the game, Rashed flashed some powerful hands rushing against Jacksonville left tackle Cam Robinson. His initial punch shocks Robinson back a bit in his set, but it’s a lost opportunity for Rashed.
I’d like to see him convert his speed into power here, rather than trying to shake Robinson with a hesitation move. He obviously has some power to his game, so I’d like to see him attempt some more bull rushes where he can get into a lineman’s chest and take them for a ride.
The ability to rush the passer is there. As a junior at Oregon State in 2019, Rashed recorded 14 sacks playing in the Beavers’ 3-4 scheme. While with the New York Jets, Rashed played defensive end in a four-point stance in a 4-3 scheme, but now in Pittsburgh he’s transitioning back to his comfort of coming off the edge standing up in a two-point stance.
On Sunday at Acrisure Stadium, Rashed has a real opportunity to grab hold of a spot on the 53-man roster with another strong performance. The Steelers are quite clearly very intrigued by his physical tools and resume coming out of college. He’s off to a strong start in preseason in the black and gold.