The Pittsburgh Steelers did not address their outside linebacker depth in the 2022 NFL Draft and according to NFL Network, that’s now the top need of the team for the remainder of the offseason.
The Steelers have the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year at one outside linebacker spot and former third-round pick Alex Highsmith is entering his second season as a starter at the other spot, but behind them, the Steelers’ depth is still somewhat questionable at one of the most important positions in the Pittsburgh defense.
Veteran Genard Avery was signed from the Philadelphia Eagles to be one backup earlier this offseason. Avery played both defensive end and outside linebacker in Philly’s 4-3 alignment, and seems suited to the outside backer spot in Pittsburgh’s 3-4, but has just three sacks over the lsat three seasons, so is not likely to be considered a top pass-rushing threat.
The other backup is Derrek Tuszka, who spent his second NFL season in Pittsburgh last season after being waived by the Denver Broncos. The former seventh-round draft pick had two sacks in 15 games a year ago.
The Steelers attempted to address their pass-rushing depth last offseason, when the signed Melvin Ingram as a free agent and selected Quincy Roche in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. But Ingram was disgruntled in his rotational role and demanded a trade, while Roche was lost on waivers to the New York Giants.
“The Steelers are paper thin at outside linebacker beyond T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith,” NFL Network’s Marc Sessler wrote. “Were either to miss time, the Steelers can’t count on Genard Avery or Derrek Tuszka to fill the gap. It’s a tough time of year to find help, but camp cuts could bring an answer. The Steelers specialize at filling gaps with chip-on-their-shoulder veterans.”
Last season, the Steelers made late additions in guard Trai Turner, inside linebacker Joe Schobert and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, all of whom ended up starting for the team. So it’s clearly within their capabilities to find a backup at this state in the game.