Hurricanes edge defender Quincy Roche selected by Pittsburgh Steelers in NFL draft’s sixth round

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David Furones, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
·3 min read
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The third of the Miami Hurricanes’ three edge defenders in the 2021 NFL draft was selected in the sixth round on Saturday.

Quincy Roche went to the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick No. 216, following the selections of Miami defensive ends Jaelan Phillips (Miami Dolphins, No. 18 pick) and Gregory Rousseau (Buffalo Bills, 30) in the first round on Thursday night. He was the second Hurricane chosen on Day 3 of the draft after tight end Brevin Jordan went to the Houston Texans in the fifth round.

Roche tweeted out the hashtag “#SteelersNation” after his selection as ESPN cameras showed his reaction to the pick surrounded by friends and family as he learned he’s going to an NFL organization that has a history of producing pass rushers.

Roche moves on to the pros after one standout season at UM that followed a transfer from Temple. In 10 games in 2020, he notched 45 tackles, 14 1/2 for loss, and 4 1/2 sacks playing opposite of Phillips on the Miami defensive line after Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season.

He was American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 for the 13 sacks he posted then at Temple.

At 6 foot 2 1/2, 245 pounds, Roche likely translates as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL after playing defensive end with the Hurricanes, who would sometimes have their ends stand up to rush the passer. Albeit rarely, he even has experience dropping back into coverage, once nearly intercepting a pass from top pick Trevor Lawrence when Miami played at Clemson last October.

“He just knows how to get to the football,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said on the broadcast. “What I like about him is that he’s got heavy hands. He’s got some power and some punch. He’s not the fastest. He’s not the biggest guy … but when you watch him in the tight areas … he’s able to knock offensive tackles back and then get to the quarterback.”

Fellow ESPN analyst Louis Riddick added: “Quincy Roche’s going to have to rely on technique — technique and get-off. … This guy has the technical aspects of the game as really what he lives off of. Then, he’s going to have to continue to refine things.”

Despite weighing less than Phillips and Rousseau, who were both 260-plus defensive ends, Roche benched more than each of them at Miami’s Pro Day in late March, completing 23 reps of 225 pounds. He also ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash.

Some believed Roche could sneak his way into Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) of the draft after he began to boost his draft stock with a Senior Bowl week in which he had several successful reps against the top offensive tackles in the draft in Mobile, Alabama in early February. In the Senior Bowl game itself, he was in on two tackles, split a tackle for loss and had two quarterback hurries.

“Really committing to the run game,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in February of areas he wanted to focus on ahead of the draft. “Pad level, still, making sure I’m physical at the point of attack, making sure my conditioning is up.”

One thing Roche felt he proved in the pre-draft process was versatility at the next level.

“I think I’m versatile enough to fit in any scheme,” Roche said. “I can play with my hand in the ground. I can play standing up. I wouldn’t mind dropping [back into coverage]. It’s something that I’ve always worked on, something that I’ve always been training on. It won’t be [about] being comfortable. It would be more so just making sure I’m trying to learn, read the right keys, things like that.”

Before his 13-sack campaign at Temple in 2019, Roche also totaled 13 more sacks the previous two seasons with the Owls for 26 total in a three-year span. He had eight forced fumbles over his four-year playing career.