The Pittsburgh Steelers traded for two players just before the NFL cut-down deadline, but the new acquisitions shouldn’t have fans jumping for joy.
Fans wanted to see the Pittsburgh Steelers get aggressive and make some proactive moves prior to the 4:00 p.m. ET deadline on August 30th when NFL clubs had to be down to just 53 players on their roster. They got their wish. In the waning hours before the window closed on roster cuts, Omar Khan traded for two players that could help improve their depth.
The Steelers had a major need for an upgrade at edge defender behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Neither Derrek Tuszka nor Hamilcar Rashed had much NFL experience and they couldn’t afford to go into the season without a proven backup. Pittsburgh was able to find one in the form of Malik Reed — trading their sixth-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Reed and a seventh.
Soon after, the Steelers were able to pull off another trade to help improve the depth on their offensive line — widely regarded as one of the biggest areas of weakness on their roster. They did so by swapping late-round picks with the Minnesota Vikings to acquire OL Jesse Davis.
On paper, it looks like the Steelers did all the right things just before the cut-down deadline, and fans on Twitter applauded in approval with their proactive trades. However, I wouldn’t get too excited about their new acquisitions just yet.
Steelers might not have improved as much with trades as we hoped
Most of the time, when we think about an NFL team trading away draft capital for players, we automatically assume they are getting better. I can’t guarantee that will be the case this time around. While I don’t mind the trade for Malik Reed, the Jesse Davis trade is hard to make sense of.
Let’s start with Reed. After cutting Genard Avery the week prior and not having any notable depth outside of Watt and Highsmith, the Steelers clearly needed an upgrade at the edge defender position. Last year, they went into the 2021 season with Melvin Ingram on their roster, but his ego ultimately got the best of him.
This time around, Pittsburgh went after a player who wasn’t a household name, but still had quality production and experience. The trade for Reed caught the attention of fans quickly. If you look at his raw numbers, Reed has racked up 13.0 sacks over the past two seasons, according to ESPN. However, when you do a deeper dive, you’ll find that Reed isn’t the outstanding player we were going for.
Reed is incredibly undersized (6’1”, 234 pounds) for an edge defender and doesn’t have good athletic traits to accompany his small frame. In addition to being a relatively poor athlete coming out of Nevada in 2019, Reed graded out as just the 89th best edge defender among 110 qualifying players in 2021, via Pro Football Focus. This doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s less than desirable.
While I think that Reed is still going to be a quality addition, I don’t know if I can say the same for Jesse Davis. Miami Dolphins fans were happy to be rid of him this offseason, and the Vikings apparently didn’t like him enough to not take a late-round pick-swap to get rid of him. Davis’ tape is really rough and he projects best as a guard. But after cutting Joe Haeg, it looks like the plan is to play him at tackle in the event of an injury.
This is far less than ideal. As a further testament to this, Davis hasn’t graded out higher than the 57th player at his position in his first five years in the NFL. Last year, he was the 79th-ranked tackle among 83 qualifying players.
I think that the trade acquisitions of Malik Reed and Jesse Davis may have helped out a little, but don’t get your hopes too high. I don’t think they are going to make as much of a difference as we would have hoped for.