Steelers Urged to Target Veteran Edge Rusher in NFL Free Agency

Mike Tomlin

Getty Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers should sign another edge rusher, argued Steelers Depot's Jonathan Heitritter.

Three-time Pro Bowler Frank Clark signed with the Denver Broncos on June 8. But there are still quite a few edge rushers available in free agency.

Steelers Depot’s Jonathan Heitritter argued the Pittsburgh Steelers should be in the market to sign one of them.

“To compete with the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Heitritter wrote. “Pittsburgh needs to continue to build up its defense to match and exceed the defensive units they will face on a regular basis in the AFC.

“The Bills, Dolphins, and plenty of other squads run 4-5 deep in viable edge rushers, meaning that adding another proven veteran shouldn’t be off the table for Pittsburgh, and honestly should be something they should investigate prior to the start of the season.”

The Steelers finished with at least a share of the NFL sack lead for five consecutive seasons from 2017-21. But in 2022, Pittsburgh was 14th in the league with 40 sacks.

With about 2.35 sacks per game last season, that was Pittsburgh’s lowest per game sack average since 2014.

Potential Edge Rushers for Steelers to Sign in NFL Free Agency

Even with Clark joining the Broncos, there are other edge rushers available in the free agent market.

Heitritter mentioned four possible edge rushers for the Steelers.

“As far as options go, there are several notable names currently out there that are looking for jobs,” Heitritter wrote. “Older veterans like Robert Quinn, Justin Houston, Carlos Dunlap and Jason Pierre-Paul all remain unsigned and are looking to play for a playoff contender.”

Those four edge rushers have made a combined 12 Pro Bowls and earned 3 first-team All-Pro nominations during their careers. Justin Houston was the most productive from a sack perspective last season, as he posted 9.5 sacks for the Baltimore Ravens.

With 4 sacks and 12 quarterback hits, Dunlap helped the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl last season.

Quinn posted a career-high 18.5 sacks with the Chicago Bears in 2021. The Bears traded Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles close to the 2022 trade deadline, where he became a key rotational pass rusher for the NFC Champions.

Like Dunlap, Pierre-Paul won the Super Bowl too, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

Any of those four edge rushers would be a nice addition to Pittsburgh’s pass rush. Spotrac reported the Steelers have a little more than $18 million left in salary cap space. The Steelers could fit any of those four edge rushers under the cap on a one-year deal.

Yannick Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney, Matthew Ioannidis and Shelby Harris are other accomplished veteran edge rushers who are also available in free agency.

Steelers Signed LB Markus Golden

Although the Steelers have the cap space to add an edge rusher before training camp, the team has already made a late offseason signing to boost its pass rush.

On May 25, the Steelers signed Markus Golden to a one-year deal worth about $1.3 million.

“He’s exactly the kind of pass-rusher they love in Pittsburgh,” an AFC scouting director told Heavy senior reporter Matt Lombardo. “They don’t mind size and length limitations, they just like production on the opposite side of Watt. And, listen, you can’t ever have enough pass-rushers.”

Golden had just 2.5 sacks for the Arizona Cardinals last season, but in 2021, he recorded a career-high 11 sacks.

Despite the drop-off in sacks, Golden continued to be in the opposition’s offensive backfield last year. He had 7 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits in 2022. Golden recorded 10 tackles for loss and 19 quarterback hits during 2021.

With Golden, the Steelers have three edge rushers who have posted double-digit sack seasons at least once in the past two years. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith combined for 20 sacks in 2022.

Although he turned 34 this offseason, defensive end Cameron Heyward remains a force as a pass rusher as well. Heyward registered his third double-digit sack season with 10.5 sacks last season.

Watt, Highsmith, Heyward and Golden already form an impressive collection of pass rushers. But if general manager Omar Khan desires another one, there are some interesting options still available.

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