Hours before the NFL's roster cutdown deadline, Steelers general manager Omar Khan was able to swing a trade that should help solve his team's depth issues behind outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Pittsburgh has traded a 2023 sixth-round pick to Denver in exchange for linebacker Malik Reed and a seventh-round pick, according to Mike Klis of 9News.
Reed, 26, had been with the Broncos since going undrafted in 2019. He recorded two sacks as a rookie before tallying a career-high eight sacks during the 2020 season. Reed posted five sacks and a career-high two forced fumbles in 14 games last season. In three seasons with the Broncos, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Reed racked up 15 sacks, 123 tackles (15 for loss), three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Reed played collegiately at Nevada, where he tallied 22 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and 38.5 tackles for loss. He was named as a first-team All-Mountain Valley performer as a senior while sharing the Golden Helmet Award, given annually to the program's most valuable player.
How did both teams fare in this trade? Here's how the Broncos and and Steelers graded out.
Pittsburgh sorely needed depth behind starters Watt and Highsmith. Instead of repeating last year's playbook by signing a veteran, the Steelers instead acquired a young player with considerable upside. It's safe to say that Reed will contribute more than Melvin Ingram, who was traded at midseason after failing to record a sack during his brief stay in Pittsburgh while playing behind Watt and Highsmith.
Reed's departure from Denver may open up a starting role for rookie Nik Bonitto, who had been behind both Reed and Bradley Chubb on the depth chart. A second-round pick in April's draft, Bonitto recorded 16 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss during his final two seasons at Oklahoma.
Broncos GM George Paton deserves credit for getting something back for a player they weren't planning to include on their initial 53-man roster. That being said, it's surprising that the Broncos couldn't get more in return for Reed, a productive player with 34 career starts under his belt. Denver also lost key depth at a position that is vital to the success of a defense.