With free agency entering its third week, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to fill holes on their roster ahead of next month's NFL Draft. Adding depth at linebacker was next facet of the roster Pittsburgh has addressed, as the team has signed veteran Genard Avery.
A fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Avery started his career in Cleveland, where he recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks during his rookie season. He was traded to Philadelphia during the 2019 season and remained with the Eagles through this past season. Avery made a career-high 12 starts in 2021, tallying a career-high 43 tackles while helping Philadelphia secure a wild card berth in the NFC playoffs.
Avery, who has 17 career starts under his belt, tallied 7.5 sacks, 101 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery during his first four seasons in the NFL. He played collegiately at Memphis, where he racked up 22 sacks and 230 tackles in four seasons with the Tigers.
Avery joins a Pittsburgh linebacker corps that includes recently-signed veteran Myles Jack, reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, fellow outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, former first-round pick Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, converted safety Marcus Allen, former Bronco Derrek Tuszka, 2019 sixth-round pick Ulysees Gilbert and 2021 fourth-round pick Buddy Johnson. Pittsburgh parted ways with veteran Joe Schobert prior to signing Jack to a two-year deal.
Along with longtime Steelers coach and former player Jerry Olsavsky, Pittsburgh's linebackers will be coached this season by Brian Flores, who joined the Steelers' coaching staff this past winter after serving as the Dolphins' head coach over the past three seasons. This week, while speaking from the NFL's annual league meetings, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that Flores' role will extend beyond his official duties.
"Senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach is his title, but there's help that he's going to help us and help me, in particular," Tomlin said, via ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "I love sharpening my sword on his and gaining a perspective that his experiences provide, that wise counsel.
"We're talking about a myriad of things. Whether it's calendar, whether it's taking care of players, whether it's the acquisition or evaluation of talent, it's been fun to have him. His contributions are going to be significant."
The Steelers were considerably active during the first wave of free agency. They made headlines by signing former Bears Pro Bowl quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to a two-year contract. The Steelers strengthened the interior of their offensive line by signing free agents Mason Cole and James Daniels to multi-year deals. Pittsburgh bolstered its secondary by signing former Bills starting cornerback Levi Wallace to a two-year deal. As noted above, the Steelers acquired Jack after he was released by the Jaguars just before the start of free agency.
Strong safety and receiver are the two most notable positions the Steelers have yet to address this offseason. Pittsburgh lost receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (Kansas City), James Washington (Dallas) and Ray-Ray McCloud (San Francisco) after each player was able to test the open market. Former first-round pick Terrell Edmunds -- Pittsburgh's starting strong safety since 2018 -- is still available after the Steelers allowed him to test the open market.