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Steelers Re-Stock Edge Rusher Depth after T.J. Watt Injury



Steelers LB David Perales
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker David Perales at practice on Sept. 6, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers re-stocked their edge rusher depth after the injury to T.J. Watt by re-signing rookie David Perales, the team announced on Tuesday.

Perales will be on his third stint with the team. The rookie undrafted free agent from Fresno State has yet to appear in an NFL regular season game.

Perales did not make the team coming out of training camp, but was re-signed to the practice squad before the first week of the season. He was released from the practice squad on Oct. 31 and brought back on Dec. 11, when T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith were both in the NFL concussion protocol. The Steelers released him for a second time on Dec. 26, when a rash of injuries hit the safety position.

Perales joined the Steelers as an undrafted free agent just after the 2023 NFL Draft this spring, and played extensively in the preseason, getting 50 snaps of defense in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills, and steadily improving his play. He played 30 snaps against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 and 20 against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, but saw his PFF grade climb from 42.0 to 48.0 to 63.1. Perales finished the preseason with four tackles and one quarterback hurry.

A hyper-productive college player, Perales played in all 14 games for the Bulldogs in 2022 and totaled 47 combined tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. His best game of last season came against San Jose State when he recorded a career-high five tackles for loss and four sacks in that single game.

Following the season, Perales earned first-team All-Mountain West honors for his stellar play. His 16 tackles for loss were the most in a season by a Bulldog since 2015. His 11.5 sacks ranked seventh in the entirety of the FBS.

Perales broke out in 2021 as he finished the season with a whooping 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks for the Bulldogs. In 13 appearances, Perales tacked on 45 total tackles and three forced fumbles. Following the season, Perales was named to the second-team All-Mountain West for the second season in a row. Before his time at Fresno, he played for FCS Sacramento State and at the junior college level with Merced Junior College. 

The Steelers do not have another outside linebacker on the practice squad. Watt, Highsmith, Markus Golden, Nick Herbig and Kyron Johnson are the five rostered players on the 53-man roster. Johnson’s role as a special teams ace seems to have elevated him ahead of Perales in the team’s pecking order.

To make room for Perales on the practice squad, the Steelers released defensive back Nate Meadors.