On Monday Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers are adding former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Rashaad Coward in free agency.
Former #Bears OL Rashaad Coward, an RFA who was not tendered, is expected to sign with the #Steelers, source said. A former DL who worked his way into the starting lineup on offense, Coward now lands in Pittsburgh.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 29, 2021
As noted by Rapoport, Coward is a restricted free agent who was not tendered by the Bears, making him an unrestricted free agent. More notably, the 6-foot-5, 326-pound lineman started his NFL career as a nose tackle, but after one year he switched to the other side of the ball, and has since made 15 starts on the offensive line.
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Coward Played His College Football at Old Dominion
To be sure, Coward didn’t take a well-worn path to the position he is in today. The New York native was a 2-star recruit at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn and went on to start for two seasons as a defensive tackle at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Va. In his four years at ODU he appeared in a total of 47 games and recorded 136 total tackles (58 solo), along with 14.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
In May 2017 he signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent and spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad, though he was activated late in the year and appeared in one game—playing ten snaps at nose tackle.
Then in 2018 the Bears converted him to offensive tackle, and though he didn’t appear in a game that season he got a chance to practice his craft against Khalil Mack, a perennial Pro Bowler and oftentimes first-team All-Pro.
In the past two seasons he started 15 of 29 games for the Bears at offensive guard, and he now hopes to duplicate the kind of success seen by Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villaneuva, who has started every game for Pittsburgh for the past five seasons after switching from defensive line to offensive tackle.
Coward is the Third Offensive Lineman the Steelers Have Signed in Free Agency
But first he will have to earn a place on the team, which is anything but assured, especially since the Steelers have already added several other offensive linemen in free agency. Never mind the fact that they also seem likely to address the position group in the forthcoming draft.
The two previous free agent signings involve center/guard B.J. Finney, who left for Seattle in free agency last March, but was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals in October of last year, only to be unceremoniously released by the Bengals earlier this month.
More recently, the Steelers also added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman and almost Super Bowl hero, Joe Haeg. Finney is on a one-year contract while Haeg has reportedly inked a two-year agreement.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have also re-signed offensive tackle Zach Banner to a two-year contract. Banner is rehabilitating from a torn ACL suffered against the New York Giants last September but is a leading contender to start at either left or right tackle in 2021.
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