The Pittsburgh Steelers recently signed EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr. off waivers. Here’s why the athletic edge defender will have a chance to stick around.
Edge defender is a position I wished the Steelers would have made more investments into during the 2022 offseason. Since Melvin Ingram walked out on the team early last year, it’s been the T.J. Watt show with Alex Highsmith accompanying him in a Batman and Robin-type partnership. However, the team did next to nothing to fortify the depth this offseason.
While Pittsburgh did add journeyman edge defender, Genard Avery, the former 2018 draft choice has bounced around the league and there’s no guarantee that he sticks on Pittsburgh’s final roster. The depth outside of Watt and Highsmith was razor-thin with just Avery and Derek Tuszka as the only two players with any sort of NFL game experience.
Recently, however, the team waived linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III with an injury designation. This opening on the 90-man roster paved the way for Pittsburgh to bring in one more player prior to their first preseason game. The Steelers wasted no time claiming Hamilcar Rashed Jr. off waivers.
Most fans probably won’t recognize this name, but if you followed the NFL Draft closely in 2021, this was a player who offered some intrigue. Rashed was an edge defender out of Oklahoma State who had a monster 2020 season in which he recorded 22.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for a loss, via Sports Reference. Had he entered the draft as a junior, Rashed might have been a mid-round pick. However, his production took a massive hit during his senior season when he recorded just 2.0 tackles for a loss and 0 sacks in 7 games.
As a result, Rashed went undrafted in 2021 and signed as a UDFA with the New York Jets. Sadly, opportunities were limited and he ultimately saw the field for just 16 defensive snaps as a rookie last year. After being released, Pittsburgh was quick to put in a waiver claim for him. Based on his size and athletic profile, it’s not hard to figure out why.
Rashed’s traits could help him stick on Steelers roster
At his Oklahoma State Pro Day, Rashed really impressed. Measuring in at 6’2 3/8” and 251 pounds, he is much smaller than most teams prefer for an every-down edge rusher, but the Steelers don’t seem to have many size standards when it comes to the position. Despite his lack of height and bulk, Rashed has long arms and a massive 82 1/4” wingspan.
What’s most impressive was his spectacular testing numbers. Rashed ran a 4.62 40-yard dash (1.59 10-yard split) to pair with a spectacular 10’8” board jump. Despite getting dinged for his size, Relative Athletic Score still calculated Rashed as an 83rd percentile athlete among NFL edge defenders.
The Steelers fall in love with these types of traits at the edge defender position, and they couldn’t pass on an opportunity to claim him. What hurts him is that he was rarely active for the Jets and he only has a few special teams snaps under his belt. This is where Avery and Tuszka will have a leg up on a roster spot.
The good news for Rashed is that neither Tuszka nor Avery have been overly impressive on defense early in their careers. If Hamilcar Rashed is able to flash his athletic traits and has an Ola Adeniyi-like preseason performance this year, there’s a route for him to make the roster as one of the two backup edge defenders.
For a player arriving this late in the summer on the Steelers, I wouldn’t bet on this happening, but Rashed is an athlete who flashes on tape. Perhaps he shows Pittsburgh enough to earn one of the final spots on the roster. If not, they could try to stash him on the practice squad and try again with a full offseason in 2023.