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2021 NFL Draft: Analyzing what Quincy Roche brings to the Steelers defense

What does the Steelers 6th round pick bring to the team?

Mike Preston: Motivated by football and family, former New Town star Quincy Roche eyes NFL future Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Quincy Roche has been touted as another 6th round gem for the Steelers, a player that could have instant impact and is a popular selection as a major steal of the draft. The Steelers could certainly stand that kind of impact from the rookie, as the outside linebacker depth isn’t the greatest with 3 of the team’s top 5 outside linebackers in 2020 snaps played not on the roster, including 4-year starter Bud Dupree.

Roche is in a favorable situation to make the roster, and has a solid chance to win the #3 outside line backer job. But what does Quincy Roche bring to the Steelers? To find out, let’s look at the film. This article will focus mostly on Roche’s 2020 game against Clemson and their left tackle Jackson Carman, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft.

Pass Rush

Quincy Roche (#2) is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

Roche has a variety of pass rush moves, but against high-end tackles, most of his success came from a speed rush up the arc. This is a good rep. Roche attacks Carman’s outside hand, and while Carman keeps his other hand on Roche, it allows Roche to bend and he forces an early throw from Trevor Lawrence that falls incomplete.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

Those and quick and violent hands that have Roche past one of the better college tackles without slowing down at all. This time Roche gets a hit on Trevor Lawrence, and the pass falls incomplete again.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the left side of the screen.

That should look familiar to Steeler fans, Roche beats the tackle only to be stopped by an arm around his neck. Unlike Steeler T.J. Watt, however, a flag is thrown on this play, and Roche has three negative plays forced without recording a sack.

Getting the better of a round 2 NFL tackle isn’t something the lower tier edge rushers do very often, Roche got the better of Jackson Carman a decent amount in pass rush in this game. That isn’t to say Roche dominated Carman at all, most of the plays Carman was able to block Roche.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

On this play Carman gets his shoulder down and keeps his outside arm on Roche, and you can see Roche’s smaller size come into play here as Carman is able to push him out of his arc. Like Roche said in his interview, he’s not going to bully people play after play, he either beats them with his technique or gets blocked.

Run Defense

With Roche being an undersized defensive end, you wouldn’t expect great run defense to show up on his film, and while his size is a limiting factor, Roche puts his fair share of good run defense reps on film.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

Roche holds the line here facing a 6’6”, 250 lb. tight end who is known as a good run blocker. He keeps his feet moving, keeps his angle of attack low and he holds his ground, keeps his inside arm free and meets Travis Etienne just past the line of scrimmage. Good run defense rep.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the top of the screen.

Not so good this time. Jackson Carman throws Roche inside then shoves him once more for good measure. You don’t see this a lot on Roche’s film, but he also didn’t face a ton of NFL caliber tackles.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

This time Roche gets the better of Jackson Carman and stops Etienne in the backfield. Notice how Roche turns sideways at the snap, and uses that to get his force matched up against the tackle’s right arm. When his technique and quickness hand him a clear win (facing 1 arm instead of a blocker’s body and 2 arms) he has the power to finish.

As a run defender Quincy Roche’s smaller frame is a bigger issue, and while he has technique and quickness to beat most college tackles and even get some key wins on one of the top college tackles, the NFL will be tougher. Roche isn’t going to have the strength of a James Harrison to offset his stature and lesser athleticism, becoming a good enough run defender to warrant serious NFL snaps will be an uphill battle for Roche.

In Coverage

While the Steelers outside linebackers do not drop into coverage nearly as much as they used to, it is still an important skill for them to have, and Quincy Roche has experience doing it.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

Roche is a smart player, and he does a great job reading this screen and taking away the outside lane from Travis Etienne, forcing him back inside. Etienne still gains 9 yards with other defenders over pursuing, but Roche did his part in containing the play. He also delivers a nice shot to Jackson Carman in the process.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the top of the screen.

Really nice work here, even if he doesn’t complete the catch. He does a great job getting out wide, looking back to find the ball and adjusting to it. Sadly that flag is on Roche for lining up offside, and instead of a turnover on downs, Trevor Lawrence gets a new series.

Watching the game it stood out to me how well Miami’s defense played Clemson in this game. And that it was when Roche and his counterpart Jaelan Phillips went to the bench for a break that Clemson scored most of their touchdowns. While Roche and Phillips were in, Trevor Lawrence was significantly less effective.

A few other plays

Here are a few things that I wanted to show from his game that weren’t in the Clemson film.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the top of the screen.

Roche has really good awareness across the board, and he does a good job sitting in passing lanes when his rush is denied. This is a really good batted ball, he’s not just throwing his hands up and hoping for the best, he’s reading the quarterback’s eyes and jumping to block the pass.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

3rd and long and the stunt comes out. Roche is really good looping behind a tackle on a stunt.

Quincy Roche is the defensive end to the bottom of the screen.

Great work on this play. His outside step gets the tackle to turn a slight bit, and that’s all Roche needs to get inside. He’s a good playmaker behind the line on scrimmage when the scheme gets him free like this.

The Steelers run a ton of stunts, and they use their outside linebacker across from T.J. Watt to contain the quarterback a lot. Roche showing good awareness when asked to hold the outside of the pocket, and his smooth loops and playmaking in the backfield on stunts are both big positives.

What I like most about Quincy Roche is the awareness he shows. He plays smart football, and he has solid to good technique across most of his game. The negatives on Roche are his size and athleticism. Those are hard things to overcome moving up to the NFL. Bud Dupree was about as raw as anyone could be, but his size and athleticism made him useful and bought him time to hone his technique. T.J. Watt’s technique wasn’t at the level of Roche’s when he came out of college, but as a freak athlete with a crazy first step, he was still a weapon. Developing his technique turned him into one of the top pass rushers in the NFL.

Quincy Roche will have to overcome being smaller and less explosive to make it in the NFL, but with his awareness and motor, I think he’ll make it. I also think the people penciling him in to start in a few years are overlooking how important athleticism is for edge rushers.