Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher and New Town graduate Quincy Roche says he has a big chip on his shoulder after falling to the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft … and now he has an opportunity to show 31 other teams — including his hometown Ravens — that they made a mistake passing on him.
Roche was rated as a two-star recruit by Rivals coming out of New Town but still landed at an FBS school in Temple, where he piled up 26 sacks from 2017-2019 before transferring to a Power Five school in Miami (Fla.), where he had 4.5 sacks this past season.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Roche then was passed over in the NFL Draft until the Steelers popped him with the No. 216 overall pick. As he begins his professional journey, Roche says he has a chip on his shoulder so big “it’s a potato at this point,” which he’ll use to drive him in the future.
It’s something he’s done in the past, too, like when he was told in high school that he couldn’t play defensive end at the Division I level — and certainly not in the ACC.
“Went to college, proved ’em wrong,” Roche said on Glenn Clark Radio May 7. “I’m pretty sure there are NFL guys that just don’t believe that what I did in college will translate to the NFL. And what I’ll say to them is just keep watching. Welcome to the journey, the same journey I’ve been living my whole life, and just keep watching. We’ll see.”
The journey takes him to Pittsburgh, a twist considering he grew up in Randallstown, Md., as a Ravens fan. Plus, his mentor at Miami was Ed Reed, the Hurricanes’ “Chief of Staff.” Though the Steelers return T.J. Watt (15 sacks in 2020), Stephon Tuitt (11) and Cameron Heyward (4) in 2021, they’ll be looking for pass-rush help at the outside linebacker position opposite Watt in training camp with Bud Dupree (8) having departed via free agency.
Roche will be among the pass rushers competing for playing time. (The Steelers also drafted Wisconsin edge rusher Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth round.) Did Roche have a feeling Pittsburgh was a potential landing spot leading up to the draft?
“Actually, we didn’t talk much during the process. I talked to them one time, maybe,” Roche said. “I’m really glad that they did draft me. I think it’s a great fit. It’s a great organization. There’s some stability there. You know there’s always going to be defensive pieces around you, just the culture, and I’m excited to get to work.”
Roche is no doubt familiar with the Steelers’ stability and culture — they’ve had just three head coaches since 1969 — having grown up a Ravens fan. He says he’ll convert those close to him to Steelers fandom “one step at a time.” His parents, Marlene and Franklin, are big Ravens fans, and his one of his close friends already has a Terrible Towel despite being a huge Ravens fan.
Roche knows he’ll have a chance to run through the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium during his career, but he downplayed the significance of playing in his hometown. At this point, it’s about helping the Steelers win games.
“It didn’t matter if I was playing for the Steelers, the Cowboys, the Washington Football Team, the Ravens. I’m going to be elated running through that tunnel regardless,” Roche said. “Obviously I’m going to have to go against the Ravens twice a year. I’ve got a job to do when I get out there, so whoever lines up in front of me, I have a job to do.”
As for most late-round picks, Roche’s ticket to the game day roster will likely come through special teams at first. But whenever he does get on the defensive side of the ball, one of the biggest tasks he’ll have is slowing down Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the former MVP who Roche will face twice a year.
“He’s a dynamic player. I’m sure he’s somebody that nobody really wants to chase around, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Roche said. “First of all, I’m going to go in there, make the 53, earn a role on the team, earn the respect of my teammates and coaches, and then we’re just going to do what we do.”
For more from Roche, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Miami Athletics