The Pittsburgh Steelers defense took a major, but expected, hit when Bud Dupree signed with the Tennessee Titans in NFL Free Agency. Dupree was a key piece of their pass rush last season, but after signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal, including $35 million of guaranteed money, the Steeler should be looking to the NFL Draft to fill a hole at edge rusher.
Following the Dupree injury, rookie outstide linebacker Alex Highsmith slid into the starting spot, where he likely will stay next season. However, TJ Watt’s contract with the Steelers is up at the end of the upcoming season and, barring an extension, he could be another case of too expensive to retain. On top of this, the Steelers are in dire need of depth off the edge, so they will most likely fill that need in April’s draft.
They will most likely spend their first two picks on the offense, but these are some mid-round Steelers draft targets at edge rusher.
Steelers Draft Targets at Edge Rusher
Janarius Robinson, Florida State
Coming in at 6-5, 266 pounds, Robinson’s size and wingspan give his the ability to effectively beat tackles and tight ends off the edge. He only had three sacks in each of his last two seasons at FSU, but put up 1.5 sacks in the Senior Bowl to go along with five tackles. His pass rushing ability may take a year or two to develop, but his talent in stopping the run can help him earn some playing time and experience. He fits the Steelers 3-4 scheme and could be a valuable add as a depth piece in the later rounds.
Projected Draft Spot: Mid 4th Round
Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
Rashad Weaver is already familiar with the stadium and the city, as a Pitt product, but that’s not the only reason the Steelers could take a chance on him. His versatility on the defensive line could prove useful, as the Steelers also let go of DT Tyson Alualu this past week. Weaver posted 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in his sophomore season. His junior year was ended early with an ACL tear, but he came back in his senior year with another 14 tackles for loss with 7.5 sacks, earning him a spot as an All-American.
Projected Draft Spot: Late 4th – Early 5th
Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
The Steelers have shown interest in Perkins, as they were in attendance for his pro day at Oklahoma. Perkins, like Weaver, is a versatile defensive lineman that would suit the Steelers in depth as well as talent. The former Sooner recorded 32 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks in just 32 games with Oklahoma, and Perkins has the ability to rush the passer that could immediately alleviate the loss of Dupree.
Projected Draft Spot: Mid 2nd Round