Fresh off of an AFC North division title, the Steelers are bringing back several key cogs from last year's 12-4 team. That being said, Pittsburgh is a vastly different team from the one that fell to the Browns in the first round of the playoffs.
The Steelers have revamped their running game while giving Ben Roethlisberger a new weapon at tight end. Defensively, the Steelers will have to relay on several new starters after losing Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton during the offseason. Pittsburgh's special teams unit is still anchored by Chris Boswell, a former Pro Bowler who made a career-high 95% of his field goal attempts in 2020.
Pittsburgh has several intriguing position battles fans should keep an eye on this summer. With training camp just around the corner, we decided to take a look at the Steelers' projected depth chart.
Note: Rookies are denoted with an *
|LWR||JuJu Smith-Schuster||Ray-Ray McCloud||Cody White||Mathew Sexton|
|RWR||Chase Claypool||James Washington||Anthony Johnson||Tyler Simmons|
|SWR||Diontae Johnson||Isaiah McCoy*||Rico Bussey*|
The Steelers lost several pillars of their offensive line in tackle Alejandro Villanueva, guard Matt Feiler and perennial Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. Four-year veteran Chukwuma Okorafor will slide from right to left tackle to replace Villanueva. JC Hassenauer will likely enter camp as the starter, but keep an eye on rookie Kendrick Green, who is wearing Pouncey's old No. 53 jersey. Second-year guard Kevin Dotson -- following a strong rookie season -- replaces Feiler at left guard. After missing all but one game last year due to injury, tackle Zach Banner will replace Okorafor on the right side. The Steelers' starters are good, but there's questionable depth behind them. Like Dotson last year, the Steelers may need rookie tackle Dan Moore to come of age quickly if veteran Joe Haeg is not up to snuff. BJ Finney, who is back for his second run in Pittsburgh, provides valuable depth at center and guard.
Pittsburgh is stacked at receiver. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool are the headliners, but don't forget about Diontae Johnson, who would have easily eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving barrier last year if not for a brief case of the drops. Eric Ebron returns after proving to be a valuable acquisition last offseason. Ebron will be paired with Pat Freiermuth, the second tight end selected in the draft.
Najee Harris will be given every opportunity to start as a rookie. The question is whether or not Benny Snell will retain his spot as the team's primary backup. Snell will have to hold off Anthony McFarland and Kalen Ballage, who made a quick impression on several media members during OTAs. Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds (listed as fullbacks) have their work cut out for them if they are going to make the 53-man roster. Samuels' versatility -- which could be a valuable asset within Matt Canada's offense -- gives him a puncher's chance.
A position battle to watch is between backup quarterbacks Josh Dobbs and former first-round pick Dwyane Haskins. Haskins' svelte physique and driven demeanor has created a stir during OTAs, but the front-runner to win this position battle is Dobbs, a proven veteran backup who won a competitive position battle with Landry Jones three summers ago.
TJ Carter/Abduliah Anderson
Calvin Taylor/Jamir Jones
After losing several starters, the Steelers' front office likely breathed a sigh of relief when Tyson Alualu returned to Pittsburgh after initially coming to terms with the Jaguars. The Steelers also managed to re-sign Vince Williams after initially releasing him. Pittsburgh still has one of the best starting defensive lines in football, but the unit will have to rely on young but largely untested backups that include rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk.
The Steelers don't have that problem at inside linebacker, with Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen and rookie Buddy Johnson playing behind Williams and Devin Bush. The Steelers "replaced" Dupree with Alex Highsmith, who played well after Dupree went down with an injury in Week 11 of the 2020 season. Pittsburgh will need elevated play from their backup outside linebackers that include rookie Quincy Roche, who collected 30.5 sacks during his college career. This group will need to make an impact while helping take some of the pressure off of T.J. Watt.
Like Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick has blossomed into one of the top players at his position. And while he hasn't become a star, fellow 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds is a quality starter who is coming off of his best season to date. There isn't much experience behind either player, however, which is probably one of the reasons why the Steelers signed former Lion Miles Killebrew this offseason.
After several years on the rise, Cam Sutton is ready to replace Hilton as the team's top nickelback. The question is who will step up to start at right cornerback? Justin Layne, a 2019 third-round pick, is the front-runner to replace Nelson. But keep an eye on fellow Michigan State Spartan Shakur Brown, who was snatched up by the Steelers after going undrafted.
We have a compelling position battle to watch at punter between Jordan Berry and rookie Pressley Harvin. The Steelers' starting punter since 2015, Berry's somewhat streaky play led the Steelers to select Harvin during the draft. Harvin comes to Pittsburgh after winning the 2020 Ray Guy Award, the award given annually to college football's best punter. Last fall, the 5-foot-11, 263-pound Harvin averaged a whopping 48 yards per punt at Georgia Tech.