2023 Pre-Draft Movements – Outside Linebacker

We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Steelers had a number of notable starters hit free agency this year, and their retention success rate was mixed, re-signing Larry Ogunjobi but losing Cameron Sutton, for example. Largely, however, what they lost they replaced, adding Patrick Peterson in Sutton’s stead.

They also had another active year in outside free agency beyond replacing missing pieces, or voluntary departures, such as Myles Jack. The most notable move was Isaac Seumalo being signed along the offensive line. While Terrell Edmunds is gone, Damontae Kazee was retained and Keanu Neal was added. Likewise, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts come in and replace Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.

The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Jack and William Jackson III, the latter of whom never dressed for them. As of now, they have restructured only one contract to create cap space, that being Minkah Fitzpatrick, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is very possible.

Position: Outside Linebacker

Total Positional Figure: 4

Offseason Additions: 0

Offseason Deletions: 2

Players Retained:

T.J. Watt: Some have argued that nothing showed Watt’s value more than the way the Steelers played in the seven games he missed last year. There are worse arguments out there. Here’s to keeping him healthy. Nothing more need be said.

Alex Highsmith: A Pro Bowl alternate in 2022 after posting 14.5 sacks and leading the league with five forced fumbles, Highsmith is due a contract extension later this year. With only one season of outstanding production (and questions about how much of it is attributable to Watt), however, some are cautious about the ultimate cost.

Quincy Roche: Their own former 2021 sixth-round pick, Roche has spent most of his career with the New York Giants after the Steelers waived him as a rookie. He’s finally circled back, however, and at least for now has a fair chance of competing for a roster spot. After all, they only have four here right now…

Emeke Egbule: Though he’s been in the league since 2019 as a late-round pick, Egbule doesn’t have much playing experience. He was added to the Steelers’ practice squad late last year and retained on a Reserve/Future deal after the season.

Players Added: N/A

Players Deleted:

Malik Reed: Picked up via trade just before the 2022 regular season started, Reed thoroughly underwhelmed as the top backup. In his defense, he was thrown into the fire with Watt’s week-one injury before he had the chance to acclimate himself.

Jamir Jones: We still don’t know why the Steelers decided to waive Jones. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter in the long run. But his 300-plus snaps on special teams will need replacing.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

Even if they ultimately didn’t talk contract numbers, the fact that the Steelers gave old friend Bud Dupree a solid once-over speaks to how keenly aware they are that they don’t have a credible third edge rusher right now. Not one that has proven anything.

I mean, there’s Roche and there’s Egbule. In a good year, neither of these players even make the 53-man roster. At the moment, it doesn’t seem likely they’re going to add a significant veteran to the mix, which increases the odds of a relatively high draft pick at the selection. Unless they plan to move DeMarvin Leal to outside linebacker on a full-time basis, or simply play with more four-lineman fronts.

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