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Steelers to Sign ex-Falcons, Bears Linebacker



Steelers OLB Kuony Deng

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed outside linebacker Kuony Deng, a team source confirmed to Steelers Now.

Deng is in Pittsburgh and is expected to participate in the team’s practice session on Monday in advance of the club’s final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.

The team will have to make two transactions in order to add Deng and wide receiver Aron Cruickshank, who the club is also adding on Monday, to the 90-man roster.

Deng, 25, is a native of Aldie, Virgina. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound linebacker was waived by the Chicago Bears on Aug. 15.

Originally signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2022, Deng spent the preseason with Atlanta last year and recorded two tackles. He was waived by the Falcons on Aug. 23 and was out of the league until catching on with Chicago on Dec. 20.

He was added to the Bears practice squad, where he finished the 2022 season and was re-signed to a reserve/future contract for 2023. He played five snaps in Chicago’s Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, and did not record any statistics.

Pro Football Focus gave Deng average grads for run defense and coverage, but poor marks in rushing the passer and in pass coverage.

Deng has played both off-ball linebacker and on the edge. He will likely play outside linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. Coming out of Cal, he rated as a 5.95 out of 10 in Relative Athletic Score among edge rushers, with high marks for his 10-foot broad jump, but a relatively slow 4.8-second 40-yard dash and even-slower 20-yard and 10-yard splits.

With the Bears, Deng missed all but two games of his 2021 season with injury, and played just four games in a COVID-shortened 2020. His best season was in 2019, when he played 13 games and posted 121 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and three sacks.

Before transferring to Cal, Deng spent two years at VMI and one season at Independence Community College.

The Steelers do not have an obvious need at outside linebacker, where Nick Herbig and Markus Golden appear cemented as backups to T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Veteran backup Quincy Roche played only sparingly in the team’s second preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, while UDFAs David Perales and Toby Ndukwe continue to get a lot of playing time.