By Jeremy Hritz
After finishing up all of the Steelers draft pick profiles, it is now time to move on to the undrafted rookie free agents. In this series, which will cover all 10 UDRFAs, I will provide an overview and analysis of each prospect so you know what to expect, and how, potentially, the player fits into the Steelers plans heading into 2022.
Tyree Johnson, EDGE, Texas A&M
The Steelers have a history of hitting a mini-jackpots on EDGE undrafted rookie free agents: Adrian Robinson, Tuzar Skipper, Ola Adeniyi, just to name a few. And while these players never developed into Pro Bowl caliber players, they did flash and show potential enough to make the roster and contribute in different ways. Tyree Johnson could be another one of those outside backers who is able to splash and capture the attention of the coaching staff to carve a role out for himself on this team.
Strengths of Johnson
The glaring strength of Johnson is his impeccable get off on the edge, which makes it difficult for tackles to contain his rush. His speed in his rush jumps off the film, and that, coupled with his athleticism and bendy-hips and ankles, empower him with an appealing trait that the Steelers are eager to see if they can develop. At 6’2, Johnson is not overly tall, which helps him dip under tackles to pressure quarterbacks, and he can sustain his momentum to push tackles backward into passers. Johnson has the raw materials needed to be an effective pass rusher at the NFL level.
Areas of Growth for Johnson
But it’s not all sunshine and roses, as for as good of a rusher that Johnson is, he is equally as underwhelming in playing the run. The Steelers desire outside linebackers who are able to set the edge, in addition to rushing the passer, so Johnson will have to show he can grow in this area to have an opportunity to make the team. His lateral movement isn’t great, limiting him in sideline-to-sideline football in terms of plays in the running game. He will also need to add to his arsenal of pass rush moves, as his go-to is taking advantage of his speed and explosiveness; however, NFL coaching can help facilitate this improvement. Limited experience in dropping into coverage and could be a liability.
Outlook for Making the 2022 Steelers Roster
If precedent has taught us anything, it is that Johnson has a legitimate shot at the 53 man roster. And he also happens to play at a position in which the Steelers are in need of depth. His remarkable burst off of the edge is highly-valuable, and if the other elements of his game can be developed in minicamps, OTAs, and training camp, the Steelers could have, at minimum, a role-playing pass rusher they can utilize in spots during the season. Johnson will need to demonstrate value on special teams and marked improvement in his run defense in order for him to make the 53, but his get-off will get him a long, extended look. If he doesn’t make the 53, he’ll be on the practice squad.