With virtually no depth at the position, the Pittsburgh Steelers must sign a quality edge defender before the start of the 2022 season.
When looking at the depth of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 roster compared to other teams around the league, there is legitimate cause for concern. Anytime you have starters go down with injuries, it’s going to hurt. However, I’m not sure that this team can withstand a blow to several positions this year — one of the most important being edge defender.
When T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith both missed time with groin injuries early in the 2021 season, former Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram was there to help stop the bleeding. Obviously, this didn’t work out well in the end, as Ingram was unhappy with his limited role when Watt and Highsmith were at full health, but at least they had someone they could turn to.
This year, things couldn’t look much worse in terms of depth. In fact, I would urge you to scour every other NFL roster around the league and try to find a team with weaker backups at edge defenders than Derrek Tuszka and Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
I don’t want to be too harsh on these young players, but what are the Steelers trying to do here? Between Tuszka and Rashed, Pittsburgh’s backups have 0 games of starting experience and just 263 total NFL snaps under their belt. It’s incredibly unwise to entrust a seventh-round draft choice and an undrafted player with virtually no NFL experience to potentially play such a pivotal role.
Steelers must find edge defender help
I don’t want to say that Tuszka and Rashed can’t improve or that neither of them could develop into a capable edge defender that comes off the bench, but the Steelers need to seek more experienced outside help. If an injury were to occur and Watt or Highsmith were to miss ample time, I don’t want to see what this would look like.
Right now, there aren’t a ton of quality options in free agency, but there are players who would be massive improvements as rotational edge defender over what Pittsburgh currently has. The biggest names on the market are players like Trey Flowers, Dee Ford, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Signing one of these players may cause Pittsburgh to have to free up some additional money.
However, there are plenty of lower-level options that would still be a big step above what they have and wouldn’t cost much. These include players like Jeremiah Attaochu, Whitney Mercilus, or Alex Okafor.
Of course, at this point, the best option might be to wait until some deep teams have to cut quality edge defenders. The Steelers could scour the waiver wire for better options. If they wanted to get really aggressive, they could even try to trade a day-three pick for a much more competent backup.
Regardless of how they go about it, there’s just no way the Pittsburgh Steelers should be content going into the season with the lack of depth they have at the edge rusher position. An injury to Watt or Highsmith could do their season in if they don’t find a better rotational option for 2022.