Steelers Adding 4-Time Pro Bowler ‘Would Make Sense,’ Says Analyst

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Steelers could pursue four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could add one of the most established pass-rushers in the NFL.

As detailed by Dale Lolley of DK Pittsburgh Sports, the Steelers have enough cap space — roughly $12 million — to make a free agency move or two. Lolley ranks ten of the top free agents the Steelers could pursue, with four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan coming in at No. 3.

Lolley argues that Kerrigan could fit in as a rotational pass-rushing piece for the Steelers.

“At 33, Kerrigan didn’t do much for the Eagles in 2021,” says Lolley. “But he’s one year removed from recording 5.5 sacks as a rotational player for Washington in 2020 with just one start. He’s a veteran who knows how to set the edge and get to the quarterback (95.5 career sacks). Adding a veteran such as Kerrigan at this point in his career would make sense.”

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Kerrigan’s Role as Pass-Rushing Specialist in Recent Years

The 33-year-old saw minimal playing time for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, appearing in 31% of the defensive snaps, but managing to make as little impact as possible. Kerrigan posted just three tackles to go with two quarterback hits and one tackle for loss.

According to Pro Football Focus, Kerrigan posted a 61.0 defensive grade and a 58.5 pass-rushing grade. The defensive grade was the second-worst of his career while the pass-rushing grade was the worst of his 11 seasons in the NFL.

While it very well appears the pass-rushing specialist may be out of gas, he did post back-to-back seasons of 5.5 sacks in 2019 and in 2020 with the Washington Commanders. During those seasons, he posted a 69.9 grade during the 2020 season and a 73.2 defensive grade in 2019.

For perspective, Kerrigan ranked 40th among all edge rushers (with at least 100 snaps) during the 2020 season and 36th among all edge rushers during the 2019 season.


Steelers Lack Depth Behind Watt and Highsmith

The Steelers appear to be lacking depth behind starting outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Smith. While Watt did win Defensive Player of the Year last season, he struggled with injuries to his groin, hip and knee that caused him to miss two games and sidelined early in other contests.

Meanwhile, fellow edge rusher Taco Charlton signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason, taking away one of their key backup players. Derrek Tuszka remains the only viable option behind both Watt and Smith, with Tuszka posting just a 64.1 defensive grade and a 64.8 pass-rushing grade last season.

Considering the Steelers finished with their worst defensive unit in three decades — they ranked 20th in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed — they can’t afford to lack depth at the most important position on defense. Especially when one considers they enter a reloading season with a new quarterback following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.

Kerrigan may not be the answer to the Steelers’ defensive woes, but he could be a key piece for a team suddenly lacking in pass-rushing specialists. For perspective, Pittsburgh didn’t sign Melvin Ingram until July 19th — right before training camp.

The Steelers could opt to do the same with Kerrigan or another veteran pass-rusher just prior to camp this season.

 

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