Early reviews of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 Draft Class haven’t been kind, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and most other analysts—including Pro Football Focus (PFF)—giving Pittsburgh grades in the ‘C’ range. So it’s worth noting that PFF included Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick, Quincy Roche, on its list of the 10 biggest “steals” of the 2021 draft.
The Steelers selected Roche—6-foot-3 and 245 pounds—with the No. 216 overall pick out of the University of Miami. Yet PFF had Roche rated No. 168 on its Final Big Board, suggesting that the Steelers did well getting him at that point in the draft. Never mind that “a steal is rarely a steal,” as PFF puts it, because “when a player is a steal, it means that several teams—maybe even all 32 teams—passed on him.”
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Quincy Roche’s Positives
Having said that, there are good reasons to think that Roche can be a reserve outside linebacker for the Steelers. Most notably, he provided elite production for both a Group of Five and Power Five school.
“With 104 pressures between Temple and Miami, there’s been no more productive pass rusher in college football over the past two seasons than Roche,” offers PFF, noting that there are few players who are better at reading offensive tackles and that he “knows how to minimize his strike zone for opposing lineman.”
That helps explain how he produced 45 total tackles—including 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks—in ten games at Miami last season. (He also tied for the ACC lead with three forced fumbles and had two fumble recoveries.)
That built on a dominant career at Temple, where he racked up 137 total tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss and 26 sacks in three seasons, not to mention six forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks.
So What’s the Problem?
Yet most analysts believe his lack of size and limited physical ability will lead him to struggle against NFL quality offensive tackles.
“Look no further than his matchup with Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw [selected No. 23 overall by the Minnesota Vikings] to see why,” says PFF. “Roche doesn’t have any of the physical tools (i.e., size, length, explosiveness) to make his life easier against quality tackles. He doesn’t threaten with power, so tackles can wait him out and clamp down.”
Regardless, Roche figures to get a long look during training camp and the 2021 preseason, as the Steelers are decidedly thin behind T.J. Watt and 2020 third-rounder Alex Highsmith. That’s because both Bud Dupree and Ola Adeniyi went to the Tennessee Titans in free agency.
Other Draft ‘Steals’ in the AFC North
Meanwhile, it’s also worth keeping an eye on two of the other players on PFF’s ‘Top 10 Steals’ list. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) was selected No. 52 overall by the Cleveland Browns and edge rusher Joseph Ossai (Texas) went at No. 69 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals.
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