The Pittsburgh Steelers have done a great job this offseason addressing the various holes on their roster and adding talent via experienced veterans as well as through the NFL Draft with youthful rookies. This team looks prepared to make some noise in the AFC in 2023, having built up power run game to support second-year QB Kenny Pickett while adding weapons in the passing game and beefing up the defense to make this roster more imposing than it was just a season ago.
Still, there are several positions that can be addressed prior to training camp kicking off this summer. We have talked extensively about the need to add a better solution at slot corner here on the site while also addressing the backup center spot with a more proven veteran. Another position that could still use an upgrade is backup EDGE behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
The team drafted LB Nick Herbig in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft with the intention to start him out on the edge, but his lack of size and lack of commitment from the front office and coaching staff suggest he could inside to the box during camp. DL DeMarvin Leal has been touted for his versatility by Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin, but he doesn’t project as a prototypical edge either in Pittsburgh’s system.
The best NFL teams have a room full of viable pass rushers coming off the edge, including the Philadelphia Eagles, who last year had the likes of Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Robert Quinn teeing off on the QB. Assistant GM Andy Weidl has stressed the importance of beefing up the trenches on both sides of the football, and given his tenure in Philly, we shouldn’t rule out another late add to the room of a proven vet occurring before the team reports to Latrobe. Below are a few names that make sense as veteran targets for the Steelers that can keep Watt and Highsmith fresh as well as help lessen the blow if an injury were to occur.
Kyle Van Noy – Age 32
One name that remains on the market post-draft is OLB Kyle Van Noy, who most played for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. Van Noy projects well in Pittsburgh’s defensive system, having played on the edge for the Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots, and Lions during his NFL career. He is a proven pass rusher as well as capable of dropping into coverage, having 29 PBUs and three INTs in his NFL career.
As Dave Bryan recently stated in a piece highlighting the possibility of Van Noy joining Pittsburgh, he’s registered an average of 5.25 sacks per season over the course of the last six seasons and registered over 700 defensive snaps in each of his last six seasons. Van Noy signed a one-year contract with the Chargers last year that had a total value of just $2.25 million, meaning there is a good chance he could be had on the cheap this offseason as an ideal EDGE3 behind Watt and Highsmith.
Markus Golden – age 32
Markus Golden isn’t a flashy name at the EDGE position, but the veteran pass rusher has been productive since getting drafted by the Arizona Cardinals back in 2015. Golden has the size and measurables Pittsburgh looks for in the edge rushers, standing 6’3 and weighing 260 lbs. He has three seasons with double digit sacks on his resume including an 11-sack performance with the Cardinals as recently as 2021. He plays with great effort playing chase of the QB as well as a run defender, lacking exceptional length but has a motor that runs hot. With 111 games played and 68 starts on his resume, Golden could come in and become Pittsburgh’s EDGE3 immediately, keeping Watt and Highsmith fresh while providing a meaningful pass rush himself.
Justin Houston – age 34
Justin Houston just turned the ripe age of 34, making his fit in Pittsburgh a little more of a projection given his age and Pittsburgh’s longstanding history of avoiding defensive free agents over the age of 30. However, that trend seems to have loosened in recent years with Pittsburgh signing OLB Melvin Ingram a couple of seasons ago while also showing interest in veteran pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Houston, who himself stated that he was “so close” to signing with Pittsburgh back in 2021.
Houston looked to have found the fountain of youth with the Baltimore Ravens in 2022, racking up 9.5 sacks over the course of the season. However, after a fast start with nine sacks in his first seven games played, last season, Houston fell off down the stretch, recording just 0.5 sacks for the rest of the season. Houston would be able to play less snaps in Pittsburgh as a rotational pass rusher with Watt and Highsmith, keeping him fresh to make more of an impact down the stretch of the season as well as on a game-to-game basis. For a team looking to make a push in the AFC and get after some of the best QBs in the league, Houston could be a logical target to add.