Veteran outside linebacker Genard Avery was the most surprising cut the Pittsburgh Steelers did Tuesday when they trimmed their roster from 85 to 80. Up until that point, Avery had been running as the No. 3 outside linebacker, starting in place of the injured Alex Highsmith all week and during Saturday’s preseason win over Jacksonville, game in which Avery finished with three pressures. By Tuesday, he was off the Steelers’ roster. That’s the NFL for you.
The team’s next man up appears to be Hamilcar Rashed Jr., who reportedly worked as a first-team ROLB during the week. According to the PPGs Gerry Dulac, the Steelers plan to watch him this weekend against Detroit as you watch the waiver wire after final cuts. This is what Dulac tweeted a short time ago.
Dulac doesn’t go into much detail about why Avery wasn’t a good fit. Perhaps he played too out of control for the Steelers’ system, giving up possession in Saturday’s win over Jacksonville and allowing quarterbacks to leave the pocket. Speaking to reporters earlier today, Mike Tomlin confirmed that it was purely a football decision. Avery has already snagged a new team, signing with Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Rashed Jr. is a recent addition, signed to the roster on August 10th, and he now has a chance to make the Week 1 roster. That would not be without precedent. In recent years, names like OT Zach Banner (August 12, 2018) and WR Ray-Ray McCloud (August 21, 2020) have made the club after mid/late training camp additions.
Shortly after Rashed Jr. signed with the team, Tomlin was asked for a quick scouting report.
“I remember when he came up in the draft, he was a guy that had our attention,” Tomlin said the next day. “He’s an outside linebacker. I think he had 14 sacks his junior year at Oregon State, and that caught our attention. But it is a process of getting to know each other and we will be happy to give him a chance to show himself to us. He’s a guy who’s not a rookie. He’s been in this thing, so hopefully he can learn fast enough to be a contributor in some form on Saturday.”
As Tomlin referenced, Rashed Jr. had an incredible junior season, putting up 22.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Things went south his senior season, dealing with an injury, and he didn’t record a sack in seven games. Couple that with an ugly-looking three-cone time of 7.51, and he went undrafted in 2021. He was picked up by the New York Jets and carried until this summer, when New York waived him on August 8th. Now, he will have a chance to make the team in Pittsburgh. Through two games with the Steelers, Rashed Jr. has two pressures, one in each contest, and recorded a sack against Seattle.
Also competing for that #3 spot is Derrek Tuszka while guys like Delontae Scott, Ron’Dell Carter, and James Vaughters are fighting to stay on the practice squad. This Sunday’s finale against Detroit has significance for spots big and small on the roster, everything from the starting quarterback to one of the backups outside linebacker. If Rashed Jr. can play well, he can lock down a roster spot. If not, the Steelers can add an outsider. Maybe last year’s sixth-round pick Quincy Roche, reportedly on the bubble in New York, could circle back.