It was only until somewhat recently that Pittsburgh Steelers fans were hitching their wagon to Genard Avery as the hope for a decent depth rotational edge rusher. When he didn’t even make it to the final roster cuts, it was met with quite a bit of surprise, and concern about the depth.
The front office was concerned as well, which is why the team’s two depth outside linebackers were acquired on cutdown day or later, including a trade for the Denver Broncos’ Malik Reed, who has some experience in this league and double-digit sacks to his name. He hasn’t been here long, but he’s impressed the room, including Alex Highsmith.
“Oh, for sure, he’s been great”, the third-year veteran told reporters yesterday when asked if he believes Reed can contribute now, via the team’s social media. “He’s a guy that’s come in, he’s a really smart guy, a guy who’s been in a system like ours and a guy who’s been in this league and produced, so he’s someone who I feel like can come in and pressure the QB for us, get sacks. I’m excited to have him. He’s been great so far for us, and I feel like he’s catching up with everything and getting up to speed right now”.
A three-year veteran, Reed logged 45 games with 34 starts during his time with the Broncos. He recorded 15 sacks, 13 of which have come over the past two seasons, along with 123 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss. He also has three career forced fumbles. He has logged 1,992 defensive snaps and 315 snaps on special teams, most of which, 203, came in 2019.
As a reserve in Pittsburgh, you can count on Reed being asked to get back on special teams, at least once he is up to speed on what coordinator Danny Smith wants him to do. The other edge reserve, Jamir Jones, may have only recently been claimed off waivers, but he was here last year, and even played on special teams and on defense for a couple of games before he was waived.
The Steelers set the tone for quality depth last year when they made sure to go into training camp with an experience veteran in Melvin Ingram as their number three behind T.J. Watt and Highsmith. He was successful in that role, but evidently unhappy, which ultimately led to him being traded mid-season.
Derrek Tuszka and Taco Charlton became the primary reserves for the remainder of the season after that. It looked like Tuszka was going into this year as the top reserve after Avery was released, but then the Steelers traded for Reed, and then after claiming Jones, they waived Tuszka, who’s now with the Tennessee Titans.
What Reed does with the Steelers, of course, is yet to be determined, but it’s safe to guess that he will waste no time dressing, as there are only four outside linebackers on the roster. Highsmith also referenced the fact that he comes from a system similar to Pittsburgh’s, which should allow him to hit the ground running without too much of a learning curve. Plus, getting around the tackle is the same no matter where you are.