As the Pittsburgh Steelers head into training camp and the 2021 season, they currently still have a hole at outside linebacker behind incumbent starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
That could all change soon, should the Steelers use some of the newfound cap space following the release of David Decastro to sign a veteran pass rusher to back up Watt and Highsmith. Bleacher Report is predicting just that to happen, stating that the Steelers will sign 31-year-old pass rusher Justin Houston in free agency.
Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton detailed the Steelers’ need for a third outside linebacker, eventually linking the franchise to Houston, who remains on the market into July after two strong seasons in Indianapolis after eight seasons in Kansas City.
“The Steelers can use their financial resources to acquire arguably the best pass-rusher on the market in Justin Houston,” Moton writes. “Pittsburgh wouldn’t have to place immense pressure on second-year veteran Alex Highsmith to become a high-quality starter opposite T.J. Watt. Houston and Highsmith would compensate for the loss of Bud Dupree, who signed with the Tennessee Titans this offseason.
“Secondly, the Steelers would keep Houston away from the Baltimore Ravens, who hosted him for a visit in April, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Pittsburgh has more cap space than Baltimore, which would allow general manager Kevin Colbert to outbid a division rival if necessary. The Steelers cannot have enough pass-rushers in the AFC North. Houston could help chase down Lamar Jackson, break through Baker Mayfield’s stout offensive line and lessen Joe Burrow’s time to scan the field for his solid trio of Cincinnati wideouts in Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. Houston recorded 19 sacks over the last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. With him and Watt, the Steelers would have one of the top edge-rushing duos in the league.”
Though Moton makes a good point about using some of the newfound cap space to address the lack of depth behind Watt and Highsmith, the Steelers have not had any contact with Houston to date, which would make things very difficult when it comes to signing the 10-year veteran.
Houston has had a great career to date after entering the league as a third-round draft pick out of Georgia in 2011, recording 97.5 career sacks while earning four Pro Bowl berths and one All-Pro selection. He would slot in as a terrific No. 3 option — one of the better depth linebackers the Steeles have had in recent years — and would shore up a glaring hole on the roster at this time.
It’s simply difficult to see the Steelers even having interest in Houston at this time, considering the history of not signing outside defensive free agents over 30 years of age, and considering the Steelers haven’t had any known contact with Houston to this point.
If Houston were interested in taking a veteran minimum salary, it could certainly be a pairing that works out in a big way. It’s just highly unlikely at this point. There’s certainly a need from the Steelers’ standpoint, and the fit is a good one overall, but it’s hard to see Houston signing on to be a backup at this point in his career, especially after waiting around this long for a job.