The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, but with the 2021 NFL Draft over the attention now turns to the regular season. There are steps along the way, mandatory minicamp, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp, but the position battles which will take shape throughout the offseason are worth discussion.
Sure, things could change between now and the start of training camp. Injuries, acquisitions and players emerging can alter the outcome of these battles, but there will be several key battles taking place. In this series, myself and Dave Schofield will be giving our analysis and prediction for each training camp battle which will unfold at some point this offseason.
Today we take a look at a position/battle for the Steelers’ defense. The battle to discuss today is who will be the Steelers’ primary backup pass rusher during the 2021 season. Of course, there is no debate as to who the starting pass rushers are, but who will spell T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith when they need a break is anything but certain. This battle pits 6th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft Quincy Roche vs. the field.
Who wins the battle? Dave and I give our predictions below, but be sure to let us know what you think in the poll below, and be sure to explain your vote in the comment section!
Analysis: The Pittsburgh Steelers situation at outside linebacker (OLB) is not ideal. Sure, hopes are high for Watt and Highsmith, but the Steelers don’t have a backup player who is proven to come in and spell the starters. This is exactly what Highsmith did in 2020 for Watt and Bud Dupree, but no one knows if Cassius Marsh and/or Quincy Roche can fill that role. Or could the Steelers bring in another pass rusher via free agency to help fill the void at the position? Only time will tell...
Prediction: As much as I would love for the Steelers to bring in a Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram, I just don’t see it happening. The Steelers have roughly $7 million in cap space heading into the season, and that is typically what they like to carry into a season to have for injuries and potential roll over. I think the Steelers will go into this season with what they have, and the hope is Roche is a player who can rush the passer efficiently enough, even with limited snaps, to fill the same shoes Highsmith filled in 2020.
Analysis: It’s not outside the realm of possibility for the Steelers to try to skimp at this position. In 2018 the Steelers only had three outside linebackers for a portion of the season, and I was surprised they made it through the way they did. But if this is what the Steelers plan on doing, they’ve got to have a solid player in the third spot, which is not known if that will be the case at this time.
Prediction: I believe the Steelers will have at least four outside linebackers for 2021, but someone like Cassius Marsh may be at the bottom of the depth chart in case of emergency and used primarily for special teams. I am forever hopeful that Quincy Roche will prove to be a solid player who should have been drafted at least two rounds earlier in the 2021 NFL draft. If he shows he is capable of coming in to spell both starters, then the Steelers are set. If not, I look for the Steelers to scour the waiver wire come August 31 in order to find someone else when roster cut-downs occur across the NFL.
Who will be the Steelers’ primary backup pass rusher?
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