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Steelers Meet with Notre Dame's Rochell

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert met with the defensive lineman who impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. Jon Ledyard has the complete breakdown.

Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaac Rochell told me over Super Bowl weekend that he had met with General Manager Kevin Colbert and several other Steelers staffers during Senior Bowl week in Mobile. 

The meeting capped off an impressive week of practice for Rochell, a 6-4, 282-pound defensive lineman who showed off power and athleticism during the 1v1 sessions of practice.

Rochell wouldn’t be a Day One target for Pittsburgh, but a strong Combine would certainly interest them by the end of the third round.

Rochell was often used off the edge at Notre Dame, even on obvious passing downs. While his hand placement and ability to utilize long arm techniques as a pass-rusher are impressive, Rochell is built to be more of a 5-technique at the NFL level and would be a perfect fit for the Steelers' 3-4 defensive front. His explosive first step and long levers could make him a tough block at the point of attack, especially in nickel packages. 

Rochell, like most of his Notre Dame teammates, was viewed as having had a tough year, but I like most of what I see on tape. His motor really stood out in Indy. He's a guy who went 110% every snap and then sprinted back to the line for his next rep. That type of workmanship undoubtedly stood out to Colbert and Co., who understand how much John Mitchell appreciates defensive linemen with athleticism and a high-effort mentality.

One of the reasons for Rochell’s unimpressive sack total (4.5 in 49 games) is the fact he so often played off the edge rather than inside, where his lack of bend wouldn’t have been a factor as he worked a more linear path to the quarterback. Rochell was also tasked with a number of tackle reads as a two-gapper in Notre Dame’s 3-4 front, which meant a less explosive get-off and more of a contain mindset as a pass rusher. I think he has impressive tools but his full potential is likely a year or two away from being realized.

The question in regard to any potential marriage with the Steelers would be where Rochell would fit. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave represent the Steelers' starting three in their base 3-4 front, but with the team in nickel over 75 percent of the time this past season there are typically only two defensive linemen on the field at any one time. Given that Heyward and Tuitt are in exceptional shape and are so well-rounded, Pittsburgh rarely brings them off the field. Although, the rapid development of Hargrave may alter that approach this year.

Even the depth in Pittsburgh looked significantly improved this past season, as L.T. Walton took impressive steps in becoming a solid run defender. Ricardo Mathews wasn’t great against the run but provided a little juice as a pass-rusher during his lone season in Pittsburgh. As a free agent, Mathews might not be back, which suggests a reserve spot could open up behind the Steelers' top four defensive linemen.

Rochell could figure into the mix there, especially on passing downs when the Fighting Irish defender’s versatility could allow the Steelers to move him all around their defensive front. 

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