Steelers could target familiar edge defenders following cuts

New York Giants outside linebacker Quincy Roche (95) reacts after a sack against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants outside linebacker Quincy Roche (95) reacts after a sack against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have almost no depth at edge defender, but they could be targeting some familiar faces after the final cut-down date. 

I can’t imagine there are many Steelers fans out there who are feeling comfortable about the current state of their edge defenders. Obviously, we can trust T.J. Watt to be his usual dominant self again in 2022 (assuming he’s healthy). Meanwhile, Alex Highsmith is a quality football player and will be the starter opposite of Watt, but he hasn’t practiced in Weeks and he won’t see his first action until the Steelers take on the Bengals in Week 1.

Pittsburgh’s depth is where it starts to get really scary. None of the options were looking particularly good this summer, but the team recently cut Genard Avery — the player who was projected to be the first off the bench in the EDGE pecking order.

With just Derrek Tuszka and Hamilcar Rashed Jr. as the only two depth options on the team, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Tomlin reached out to some familiar players following the final cut-down date on August 30th. These players aren’t guaranteed to be released from their respective teams, but signing them would make sense for a team desperately lacking edge defender depth.

Steelers could add former preseason stud, Jamir Jones

Jamir Jones was a preseason phenom for the Pittsburgh Steelers just last season. He made the roster over draft choice Quincy Roche thanks to his special teams ability and impressive defensive play during exhibition action. Jones dressed for 3 games on the Steelers last season and started one contest before the team released him early in the year.

Now it looks like Jones has had a pretty solid summer with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and there’s a chance he could back up Josh Allen on the edge. If he just misses the cut, the Steelers could come calling.

Taco Charlton has recent familiarity with the team

Of the familiar edge defenders the Steelers could pursue, Taco Charlton is the most recent of the group to be on Pittsburgh’s roster. He proved to be a serviceable addition to the team last year. While he doesn’t have elite athletic traits, Taco is long with a big frame and a well-balanced skill set.

It’s looking like Charlton is a player who could be released by the Saints due to their incredibly deep roster. He certainly didn’t live up to lofty expectations as a first-round pick, but his experience and familiarity with the defense could make him a player Tomlin targets if he’s released.

Steelers could undo the Quincy Roche mistake

This one still stings for many Steelers fans. In his first preseason last year, Quincy Roche was very impressive as a pass-rusher. It looked like he was heading for a role in a rotation behind Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram. However, Pittsburgh surprisingly cut their sixth-round draft choice for Jamir Jones (who didn’t stick).

While Roche hasn’t been bad on the Giants, the depth at the position could force him off New York’s final roster on cut-down day. Roche would be hungry for another chance to prove his worth to the Steelers and I wouldn’t be surprised if the team brought him back in.

Ola Adeniyi would be the best of the group if released

This one is wishful thinking as Ola Adeniyi’s job is safer than all of the other edge defenders listed. He’s also a better player than Charlton, Jones, and Roche, in my opinion. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Adeniuyi’s job looks pretty safe on the Tennessee Titans right now — though nothing is guaranteed.

Letting him walk last year is a decision the Steelers probably wish they could have back. Adeniyi would easily be the first edge off the bench for Pittsburgh in 2022 and would be able to spell Watt and Highsmith for snaps on the regular.

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I don’t want to come down too hard on unproven players like Derrek Tuszka and Hamilcar Rashed, but it scares me to think about what Pittsburgh’s defense would look like if Watt or Highsmith were to go down with an injury for any length of time. The depth is simply poor at the position, and I would be surprised if Mike Tomlin targets some familiar faces that hit the waiver wire following final roster cuts.