Why Vic Beasley to the Pittsburgh Steelers makes sense

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Vic Beasley Jr. #44 of the Atlanta Falcons on his way into the endzone scoring a touchdown after a fumble recovery against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Vic Beasley Jr. #44 of the Atlanta Falcons on his way into the endzone scoring a touchdown after a fumble recovery against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images) /

There’s a pressing need for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which they can address this offseason.

There is no question, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in dire need of a double-digit sack artist anchoring opposite side third-year phenom T.J. Watt. A team whose 3-4 defensive scheme that’s heavily predicated on generating quarterback pressure off the edge, it’s up to the outside linebackers to create havoc up front.

Last year witnessed Watt have a career season where he amassed 68 tackles, 13.0 sacks and team-high six forced fumbles. Watt’s sack total ranked tied for 8th best in the NFL, while his 17 tackles for loss paced the team. A future Pro Bowl player who plays fundamentally sound while understanding proper leverage points, Watt has quietly inserted himself as one of the rising stars in the NFL.

But Watt needs more help opposite of him. Sure, the Steelers ranked T-1st in NFL last season with 52 sacks, but you can never have enough pass rushers. Like former first-round pick Jarvis Jones before him, fifth-year Bud Dupree has been nothing short of a disappointment, since being drafted No. 22 overall of the 2015 NFL draft.

In four seasons, Dupree has registered just 20.0 sacks. Yet, the Steelers decided to exercise his fifth-year option for the upcoming season. A hefty price tag for a player who has yet to live up to his first-round billing, especially in the coveted pass-rush department, it’s a bit of a head scratcher in my opinion. Let’s be honest, Dupree wasn’t drafted in the first-round to be a two-down thumper, so pass-rush needs to be cleaned up this season, if he hopes to strike a long-term deal. That’s not a secret, it’s the truth.

We all heard the saying, “iron sharpens iron,” and with that comes competition. The Steelers are already set along the defensive line with Pro Bowl DE Cameron Hayward, sixth-year DE Stephon Tuitt and arguably the best nose tackle in the game Javon Hargrave, but outside linebacker is a different story.

By adding another solid edge rusher to push the team’s 2015 first-round pick, that may bode well for that vaunting Steelers defense. So the question remains, who should the Steelers target this off-season? While the Houston Texans will likely slap the franchise tag on Jadeveon Clowney, my focus has shifted to Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley.

Just like Dupree, the Falcons exercised his fifth-year option for the upcoming season. Again a hefty price tag, as Beasley is scheduled to earn $12.81 million, that mega number becomes fully guaranteed on March 13 (NFL league new-year).

After bursting onto the scene in only his sophomore season, Beasley led the NFL in sacks (15.5) while being named a first-team All-Pro. However, his production has since declined. In the past two seasons combined, Beasley has recorded just 49 tackles and 10.0 sacks. A far cry from his 2016 production and one reason why teams were inquiring about his services before this year’s trading deadline.

“My expectations are to be a certain-caliber guy, a double-digit sack guy. So, it’s frustrating. That’s frustrating for anybody who sets goals and doesn’t reach their goal,” Beasley said. “I wish my production was higher. But all I can do is go there and continue to put my best effort on the field and try to show each and every coach that I play hard, play for my teammates, and give my best effort.”

NFL teams are always looking to improve their pass rush. In today’s pass happy NFL, you can never have enough pass rushers, especially one that can produce double-digits sacks in any given year. That’s where Beasley comes into play. In 2016, Beasley was primarily used as an outside linebacker, a year which saw a spike in production. In my opinion, I believe Beasley can easily re-insert himself as one of the NFL’s premier edge rushers under the right scheme–a 3-4 scheme.

Under a 3-4 odd-man alignment, the defensive lineman are the ones who make any play possible. They are responsible for occupying space, eating up blockers, and clogging running lanes which in turn allows the linebackers behind them to clean up the play. The defensive line rarely garners the attention due to the scheme, but their production doesn’t go unnoticed. It shows up in the film-room, in their teammates stat line, and opposing team’s time of possession. For them, it’s all about playing with sound leverage and gap integrity.

This scheme fits Beasley’s skill set to a tee. He’s an explosive fast-twitched athlete with elite get-off. His ability to dip his inside shoulder while turning the corner without losing forward momentum is a thing of beauty. But it’s not all about the pass rush, as Beasley is also fundamentally sound versus the run. His high-football IQ allows him to sniff out plays pre-snap while possessing the athleticism to make plays behind or near the line of scrimmage. A very instinctual player at the point of attack, Beasley would easily be an ideal fit under DC Keith Butler’s system.

But what would the Steelers need to give up to acquire Beasley’s services? After all, he is currently under contract. My proposal would be a swap of 2015 first-round picks. Trade Dupree for Beasley while then sweetening the deal by adding a mid-round selection. No higher than a fourth-round pick.

From a general manager standpoint it makes perfect sense. Sure there are players like Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence and Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford set to hit the open market, but they will command top dollar. Two of those players were already slapped with the franchise tag last season, while the Chiefs picked up Ford’s fifth-year option last season, so I highly doubt their respective teams would let those players walk after ponying up a king’s ransom to retain their services.

If you look back at history, a highly ranked defensive Steel Curtain always had a pair of edge rushers at outside linebacker, capable of producing double-digit sacks consistently. Dating back to 2000-2003, the team had Joey Porter and Jason Gildon setting the edge. There was a huge drop in production at the position over the next four seasons but then came the dynamic duo of James Harrison and LaMar Woodley, who would reset the gold standard from 2008-2011. Before all of them, there were a few players who held the position during their tenure in Blitzburgh including Chad Brown, Kendrell Bell and more notably Kevin Greene.

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A team always looking to improve their roster, look for the Steelers to try and add a premier edge rusher this off-season, whether it’s trading for a player like Beasley or via the upcoming draft.