Steelers Notes: Reed, Pickens, Bush

Pass-rush depth had long been something the Steelers were reported to be seeking this offseason. Pittsburgh addressed the issue earlier this week by acquiring Malik Reed and a 2023 seventh-round pick from the Broncos in exchange for a sixth-rounder. It appears that Reed’s destination was no coincidence.

When speaking about the decision to trade the 26-year-old, Broncos GM George Paton said, via Kyle Newman of the Denver Post“We have a lot of really talented outside backers who can rush. We thought it would be best to trade Malik and trade him to somewhere where he’s going to fit in… He wanted to go to Pittsburgh, and we found a home for him. I think it’s a win-win for both sides.”

Reed will enter his contract year slated to operate as the team’s third outside linebacker behind T.J. Watt and Alex HighsmithWith 15 sacks and an equal number of tackles for loss during his three seasons in Denver, the Nevada product should give his new team the productivity off the edge they were looking for.

Here are some other notes from the Steel City:

  • Immediately following the trade, Reed agreed to re-work his contract. His base salary has dropped from $2.43MM to $1.5MM, as noted (on Twitter) by ESPN’s Field Yates. With a productive season, he will no doubt earn a raise over that figure, but for 2022 he projects as a highly cost-effective option off the bench for a Steelers team which already led the league in sacks last season.
  • One of the stars of training camp and the preseason has been rookie wideout George Pickensto the point where many have wondered how the Steelers were able to land him at No. 52 in the draft. Per PFF’s Doug Kyed, the Georgia standout was viewed by many around the NFL as the top receiver prospect after the 2020 college season, and that things only changed after his ACL tear the following spring and the rise of character concerns. As a so-called ‘wild card’ prospect, he was ultimately the 11th WR to hear his name called, but he could have a productive rookie season alongside Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, and has the upside to outperform most (if not all) of the pass-catchers chosen ahead of him.
  • Much of the talk surrounding the team this offseason has been the expectations placed on linebacker Devin Bush. The team’s decision to decline his fifth-year option has left many believing the former top-10 pick will be playing elsewhere in 2023. One pundit of that opinion is Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, who wrote last month that Bush is “nowhere near where he should be” considering his experience and draft pedigree. Kaboly adds that the team may need to alter its personnel packages based on whether or not Bush is on the field – a far cry from the every-down, playmaking defender the Michigan alum was drafted to become.
  • In addition to reinforcements along the defensive edges, the Steelers were active in seeking o-line depth. In fact, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh was “the team that came up most often” in trade talks (Twitter link). Fowler names Dennis Daley (who was dealt to Tennessee) as one of the team’s targets; they ultimately acquired Jesse Davis from the Vikings hours after the Reed deal. The 30-year-old was a starter on the Dolphins’ underwhelming offensive front last season, but could provide experienced depth for a unit the Steelers hope will take a step forward in 2022.
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