Steelers second wave of cuts leave a lot of unanswered questions

Genard Avery #49 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the first half of a preseason game against the at TIAA Bank Field on August 20, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
Genard Avery #49 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the first half of a preseason game against the at TIAA Bank Field on August 20, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers made some surprise cuts this week. Here’s why their decisions leave more unanswered questions on the depth chart.

We are approaching one of the most difficult times of the year for NFL front offices. After beginning the summer with a 90-man roster, teams will eventually cut over 40 percent of their team to get down to just 53 players by next Tuesday. This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers released another five players to go from 85 to 80 prior to the 4:00 p.m. ET deadline.

During the second wave of cuts, the Steelers parted ways with WR Christian Blake, K Nick Skiba, and RB Mateo Durant, Teresa Varley of reported. These weren’t at all surprising. Fans were initially excited by Durant when he was signed as an undrafted rookie this summer, but he didn’t show enough to warrant sticking around any longer.

However, two of their five cuts caught us off guard. The first was Chris Oladokun. After taking Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick in the NFL Draft, Pittsburgh doubled up on QB by selecting Oladokun in the seventh round.

Steelers made a mistake drafting Oladokun

This was a questionable move at the time, but the thought process was that the Steelers could keep Oladokun on a very cheap four-year rookie deal as the QB3. Of course, this was contingent upon what happened with Mason Rudolph. If the Steelers were able to ship Rudolph in a trade, Oladokun could stick around. If not, the team would obviously keep the better player.

Now the decision to take a second QB in the 2022 NFL Draft looks worse than ever. It’s not like the team even gave him an opportunity to compete either, as he didn’t get his first reps in team sessions until the very end of training camp. Oladokun never took a single snap in his first preseason before being cut by the Steelers.

The Steelers still have a chance to re-sign Oladokun to the practice squad, but I don’t see why he would want to come back after not getting any opportunities this summer. Even if he does, they have already lost the benefit of his rookie contract.

What are the Steelers doing with their edge defenders?

As much as I had an issue with the decision to release Oladokun (because it reminded me why they never should have drafted him in the first place), I really wasn’t a fan of the decision to cut edge defender, Genard Avery.

The Steelers are already razor-thin at the edge rusher position, and while he was often banged up, I didn’t think that Avery had a bad camp at all. Avery didn’t possess ideal size and length for the position, but his terrific athletic traits were on full display, and I thought he looked pretty good rushing the passer. In his second preseason game against the Jaguars, Avery earned the second-highest grade of any defender on the team, according to Pro Football Focus.

If the Steelers had better depth, perhaps this would have made more sense. However, Derek Tuszka is the only somewhat competent backup on the roster, while starter Alex Highsmith has been injured the past few weeks and wasn’t able to take a snap in the first two preseason games.

This decision must mean that the Steelers have enough confidence in newcomer, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. After just signing with the team a few weeks back, Rashed seems to be the next in line to grab the final edge defender spot. They should be scouring the waiver wire for potential improvements.

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The decisions to cut Chris Oladokun and Genard Avery left us scratching our heads and asking plenty of follow-up questions. It will be interesting to see where the Steelers go from here, and I’m sure we are in for a few more big surprises during the final wave of cuts on August 30th.