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Malik Reed Says He’s ‘Very Comfortable’ With Steelers Defense

Talking to reporters today, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Malik Reed, who was acquired from Denver via trade two weeks ago, talked about his comfort level and getting acclimated to Pittsburgh’s defense, via a video posted to the Steelers YouTube channel.

“Very comfortable,” Reed said when asked how comfortable he was right now with the defense. “Earlier on, I was just trying to learn the whole defense, and then we jump into game prep and it’s like ok, we shorten down to prepare for the teams, and so I feel comfortable more and more each day, and even in the game I felt really good, so I’m definitely ready for it.”

With T.J. Watt’s pectoral injury sidelining him for a currently unknown amount of time, Reed is going to have to step up as the starting outside linebacker opposite Alex Highsmith. Obviously, no one can come close to replicating Watt’s production, but Reed is going to have to show that he can be a capable starter for Pittsburgh if they want to compete with Watt out.

Reed is no stranger to filling in when guys go down due to injury. He did it in Denver for both Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, and he posted decent numbers. While there are concerns about his pass-rushing ability, he has been able to rack up 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He only had one combined tackle in 32 snaps in the Week 1 contest against Cincinnati, but the defense as a whole played really well. However, there were a couple of snaps where you could tell Reed was overmatched in pass protection, and he’s going to have to get more consistent pressure going forward when he’s taking starter snaps.

If Reed is able to generate consistent pressure, then Pittsburgh will at least be fine in Watt’s absence. There’s no lack of playmakers on their defense, and if Alex Highsmith can play even remotely as well as he did in Week 1, he could have himself a really nice year. If Reed struggles and can’t put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the loss of Watt is going to be felt a whole lot more than it would be. Losing Watt for any period of time puts this team at a disadvantage, but if his replacement struggles then things could from bad to worse. Reed has to show that he can be good for a few pressures a game.

Behind Reed, Pittsburgh has Jamir Jones on the 53-man roster and then Delontae Scott and Hamilcar Rashed Jr. on the practice squad. With players now eligible to return after four games after being placed on IR, I think it’s reasonable to expect Watt will be placed on IR and either Scott or Rashed will get a call-up to the active roster. Even in the best-case timeline, Watt is still likely out for at least a month, so it would make sense to free up a roster spot for an additional outside linebacker.

None of those guys inspire a ton of confidence (although Jones has had his moments in the 2021 preseason and on special teams), so Pittsburgh is really hoping that Reed can build on what he did in Denver and become a guy the team can count on to give them some of what they’re going to miss with Watt sidelined.

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