Steelers Sign Familiar Face, Rectifing Previous Offseason Blunder

Getty Quincy Roche celebrates a sack.

It seems the Pittsburgh Steelers are attempting to make good on what was literally a rookie mistake.

Linebacker Quincy Roche, a sixth-round selection in the 2021 NFL draft, returned to Pittsburgh for a second stint after the team signed him to a reserve/future deal on January 24, 2023.

Touted as a “big-time steal, it was thought that the Temple/Miami product would make an immediate impact as a rotational guy during his rookie season. He wouldn’t supplant T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith, of course, but he would provide the Steelers with key outside linebacker depth they desperately needed.

Instead, Roche was released as part of final roster cuts with the expectation that he’d clear waivers and land on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Only the New York Giants had other plans and claimed him off waivers.

Before his August 31, 2021 release, Roche played 159 snaps in Pittsburgh’s four preseason games, logging 2.0 sacks, two hurries, and five tackles for loss (per Pro Football Focus).

Steelers Could’ve Used Quincy Roche after T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith Injuries

The decision to release Quincy Roche later returned to haunt the Pittsburgh Steelers after injuries to T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith left them scrambling for linebackers. The two edge rushers were part of the “Groin Club” that also affected cornerback Joe Haden and inside linebacker Devin Bush.

Watt and Highsmith were ruled out for a critical showdown with division-rival Cincinnati Bengals, which ended in a 24-10 loss.

The Roche mishap eventually forced them to sign free agent Taco Charlton after Melvin Ingram made a stink and demanded a trade out of Pittsburgh.

Roche spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Giants, appearing in 17 games (three starts) and logging 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

The Steelers will get another crack at Roche once offseason programs start on April 17.

Steelers Linebacker Alex Highsmith Recognized

After two seasons in the Pittsburgh Steelers system, Alex Highsmith finally had his breakout season in 2022. He wrapped up his third season with a career and team-high 14.5 sacks. Highsmith’s contribution was sixth-best in the NFL and 1.0 sacks more than Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.

Highsmith, the Steelers’ third-round draft pick in 2020, came up 1.0 sacks short of joining T.J. Watt and James Harrison as the only players to top 15.0 sacks in a season, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic.

Before the season began, Highsmith was quoted as having a goal of 10.0 sacks. In December 2022, once he met that goal, he upped it to 16.0.

Highsmith also had 63 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits.

Highsmith’s solid season went (mostly) unrecognized when the Pro Bowl votes came out, being named an alternate only. Watt, who missed half the season with a torn pectoral, made it on reputation alone.

Pro Football Writers of America saw what the NFL failed and rewarded the third-year linebacker with an All-AFC Team nod. The PFWA also voted Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the All-NFL Team, his third time since coming to Pittsburgh.

Highsmith has earned a contract extension as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal. Spotrac estimates his market value at four years/$55,636 million ($13.9 million average per year).


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