PITTSBURGH – The Steelers have had a solid offseason, but there are a few positions on the team that could use some reinforcement.
One area is pass rushing depth at outside linebacker. As it stands, the Steelers have T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith as their bookend starters.
It gets pretty spotty after that. Genard Avery, Derrek Tuszka, T.D. Moultry, and Delontae Scott round out the rest of the rotation. Avery is a former SAM in the Eagles’ 4-3 defense and then the remaining three players have combined for a grand total of 281 defensive snaps over the course of their respective careers.
Fortunately, there is some help available in the form of former Super Bowl champ and Pro Bowl pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.
Pierre-Paul has been one of the league’s better pass rushers over the last decade and he’s currently a free agent. It doesn’t look as if the Buccaneers are going to bring JPP back considering the facts they have Shaquil Barrett locked in on a long-term deal and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is considered as the future opposite Barrett.
Pierre-Paul can still be a very productive player. It’s just a matter of if/how long he can stay healthy. JPP has suffered a litany of injuries over the last four seasons. He underwent offseason surgery every year as a Buccaneer and even underwent surgery as recently as February 18.
At this point, it’s fair to wonder how much Pierre-Paul’s body can take. But, in a weird way, that’s also what makes him a good fit for the Steelers.
JPP could come in as serve as the team’s No. 3/4 pass rusher behind Watt and Highsmith. This would not only boost the Steelers’ pass rush as a whole, but it would also provide the team with very reliable depth.
JPP would definitely play less snaps. Meaning, his body has a better chance of staying injury-free.
He’s also a good fit for the defense. The three-time Pro Bowler can rush out of a two-, three-, or even four-point stance and he can line up both on the outside and on the inside during special packages. He’s even a solid run defender and a great leader.
A lot of this would come down to price and it’s safe to say JPP won’t be cheap. There are a few ways to manipulate his contract, however, in order to get him in at a lower cost. The Steelers could offer a deal that’s around $5-$6 million with incentives up to $8ish million. It’s a bit of a drop-off from JPP’s $12.8 million salary in 2021, but, Pittsburgh could always tack on a void year or two to help with the cap hit, if need be.
In all, the Steelers saw a huge drop-off in their run defense after Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt went down for the year in 2021 and it’s likely they see the same with a major injury to Watt or Highsmith.
Which makes the addition of JPP all the more reasonable and all the more necessary, at the end of the day.
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