Throughout the off-season, Overtime Heroics has been keeping continuously kept you updated. From team needs, mock drafts, draft recaps, and now our 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers roster projections. We will dive into the roster and get a glimpse of what the 55-man team may look like going into the season.
Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have some knacks when it comes to building their rosters, including standing strongly behind their draft classes. Now, these might just be predictions, but there is deep thought, research, and patterns behind this article and we hope you enjoy it.
Pittsburgh Steelers Roster Projections: Offense
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Unless Big Ben has a “surprise" announcement that he will retire prior to Week 1, this seems like a lock for the QBs. Rudolph was just given an extension and seems in line to be Ben"s replacement (whether the fans are behind him or not). Some might go with Josh Dobbs over Haskins, given his experience with the playbook. Personally, I think Haskins can still play well and really want to see him leap Rudolph. Nothing would make me happier to be rocking a black and gold Haskins jersey for years to come.
RB: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels
Harris should easily be the lead back for Pittsburgh, taking over for James Conner. Snell will reprise his role as the immediate backup and Anthony McFarland should see a bigger role in 2021. The final spot came down to Samuels and free-agent signing Kalen Ballage. Ballage is versatile as a receiver but I think Samuels gets the edge with his FB/TE potential.
FB: Derek Watt
Watt is the only FB on the roster and played well enough to keep his roster spot. Nothing exciting to report here.
WR: Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White
Everyone but McCloud has earned their roster spot and even the right to compete for a starting role. From a return specialist standpoint, McCloud should warrant a roster spot. The Steelers tend to use their backup receivers as the returner. As a receiver, he has little upside and had under 100 total receiving yards last year. Compared to the other receivers at the bottom of the depth chart, Ray-Ray is the most experienced on special teams. White"s frame and potential upside land him the final WR spot as a likely reserve player.
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry
Freiermuth was a second-round selection and should enter camp as the starter. Ebron will still see plenty of targets in the red zone where he tends to thrive. The big question mark is still Gentry. The team has seen very little from Gentry since drafting him in 2019. Like I mentioned, the Steelers put a lot of faith in their draftees and Gentry likely has one more year to show the team exactly the type of player he is. If he doesn"t show progress, don"t expect him to be in the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers roster projections.
OL: Chukwuma Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr, Zach Banner, Joe Haeg, David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, Rashaad Coward, Kendrick Green, BJ Finney
Okorafor seems like a lock as starting LT with fourth-round rookie Dan Moore Jr taking time to develop behind him. Fan-favorite Zach Banner is coming back, fresh off a torn ACL from last year and with a new contract extension inked. He had a grasp on the RT starting job last year and should remain as so. Haeg makes the roster mainly as the veteran presence on the depth chart who can still play well if Banner gets injured or struggles.
David DeCastro (right guard) is the only real “lock" along the offensive line on these Pittsburgh Steelers roster projections. Dotson exceeded expectations as a rookie and should start opposite DeCastro. At center, rookie Kendrick Green should get the nod unless he has a bad training camp. Finney is an experienced swing player as a center or guard. This isn"t the most stellar offensive line ( like we have seen in recent years) but there"s at least potential.
Pittsburgh Steelers Roster Projections: Defense
DL: Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Isaiah Buggs
When Alualu signed with the Steelers over the Jaguars, I was excited. Despite being an aging former first-round pick, Alualu was great against the run for Pittsburgh. Davis, a seventh-round pick from 2020, has a great college resume and is another example of Pittsburgh favoriting their draft selections. Tuitt and Heyward will go into the season as starting defensive ends, to no surprise. Wormley signed a two-year deal and remains a good depth piece.
Loudermilk reminds me of Casey Hampton and can hopefully become the starter once Alualu does decide to hang it up. As for Buggs, I was back and forth on him. When looking at his film, stats, and the other players on the depth chart I didn"t want to leave him off. Plus, DT is a weak link for the Steelers and they need all the help they can get.
Outside Linebacker: TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Quincy Roche, Jamir Jones
Watt will start at one end with Highsmith likely taking over for Bud Dupree as his partner. Quincy Roche could still compete for that spot as well with a strong camp. Jamir Jones, a former 2020 UDFA out of Notre Dame, impressed the front office during his pro day and has the better resume of the other depth linebackers.
Inside Linebacker: Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Buddy Johnson, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen
Bush is becoming the leader of the future for this defense. Williams is the strong veteran voice who had the second-most tackles on the team last year. Rookie Buddy Johnson will likely be groomed to take over for Williams once he leaves Pittsburgh. Spillane was the ultimate underdog story from 2020 and locks in his spot. Allen simply beats out Ulysses Gilbert lll due to Gilbert"s nagging injuries.
CB: Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Shakur Brown, Brian Poole
First off, this unit looked way better at the end of last season before Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson left. CB might be the weakest position on the defense and that doesn"t bode well with their schedule. Haden is an aging starter and Sutton is being thrown into the spotlight too soon.
By default, Layne and Pierre are the only others to have played on this defense before. Brown is a UDFA that the team hopes can find enough success to replace Hilton at the nickel. As a curveball projection, I foresee the Steelers using their little remaining cap space to bring in an experience corner: Brian Poole. He"s a cheap option at nickel and lets Sutton play outside.
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Arthur Maulet, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew
Fitzpatrick is the ultimate utility player on this defense. Edmunds" future is murky after having his fifth-year option declined (for financial reasons only…as said by the team). Past the starters, the talent is questionable. Free-agent acquisition Maulet fits the mold as a slot corner but could play a role similar to Fitzpatrick in certain packages. Norwood fits a similar role although he is being labeled as a safety. Killebrew is a decent depth safety who will likely be a great contributor on special teams.
Pittsburgh Steelers Roster Projections: Special Teams
Kicker: Chris Boswell
Boswell seems to have shaken off the rust and is playing consistently again.
Punter: Jordan Berry, Pressley Harvin lll
Yes, both punters will make the 55-man roster with Harvin likely as a reserve player. While he is a hot prospect out of the draft, Harvin has some red flags with his frame and accuracy. Jordan Berry is declining as a punter over the years and I feel there is a change needed. Harvin just has to prove he can do the job first.
Long Snapper: Kameron Canaday
The long-time long snapper is still under contract and has had no issues lately on the field, this was one of the easiest decisions of these 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers roster projections.
Thanks for reading my 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers roster projections! For more NFL content, follow us on Twitter @WesKeeferPSN and @OTH_Football
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