The Steelers went into this offseason with some disappointments after the humiliation against the Browns. What was wrong with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his favorite target JuJu? The experienced offensive line was cut to pieces and Bud Dupree had to leave due to a dire salary cap situation. It seemed difficult to continue their excellent start to 2020 into 2021, but in the end Pittsburgh managed to keep most of the champs on board and strengthen in the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ main feat of free agency is not between the lines on Sundays. The offensive coordinator was replaced. The melodious Matt Canada was recruited to replace Randy Fichtner. Canada has work to do right away: The entire offensive line that was present at last season’s season opener is gone. Fortunately, with Trai Turner, he did get a solid guard with experience.
The cap problems forced the Pittsburgh Steelers to let Bud Dupree go. Mike Hilton and James Conner, after a lesser 2020, were released. JuJu Schmith-Schuster also seemed to be heading for the exit due to those same cap problems, but he ultimately opted for a new residence in Pittsburgh.
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Despite the fact that the Steelers opened the season with 11 wins in a row, it was clear that the offense in particular could use some reinforcement. The running game was too predictable and too absent, quickly putting the postseason over for the Steelers. The first round pick was therefore used to get a running back: Najee Harris of Alabama is a solid asset in that area. He looked excellent in the preseason.
Just like that second round pick by the way, Pat Freiermuth. The Penn State tight end will make it difficult for starter Eric Ebron for his place, especially as Freiermuth is a better blocker than Ebron in the running game. The picks in the third and fourth rounds were mainly spent replenishing the decimated O-line. Guard Kendrick Green and tackle Dan Moore Jr. increase the depth. Linebacker Buddy Johnson was also chosen in the fourth round. Devin Bush is still recovering and Vince Williams is getting older so Johnson is a welcome addition.
Of the last four picks, three were used to increase defensive depth. The very last pick brought in a punt. The defensive signings are Isaiahh Loudermilk (DE), Quincy Roche (OLB) and Tre Norwood. Roche can serve as a special teams player and for Norwood it is especially important to fight on the roster or the practice squad. Loudermilk, however, is a different story. It was worth a future fourth round pick for the Steelers to pick him up in the fifth round. He is tall and has had a good production in college, but his pass rush qualities are questioned.
From the top five to the bottom five, the O-line took a solid flush from the Steelers’ cap problems. Center Maurkice Pouncey, right tackle Alejandro Villanueva and guard David DeCastro : all three are gone and real replacements at the same level have not come except Trai Turner. Since Ben Roethlisberger’s health is always an issue, the team here must hope for a better situation on the pitch than on paper.
The weapons for Ben, who adds another year, are not less. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud are probably the five receivers, while Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth have two good tights. be ready at the end. The running game also got an upgrade with Najee Harris. Behind him, Benny Snell Jr, Anthony McFarland, Derek Watt and Kalen Ballage battle for a roster spot. James Conner was shipped to Arizona after a difficult season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line is also one of the best in the National Football League (NFL) after the loss of Bud Dupree. TJ Watt is one of the top ten players in the league, while Cameron Heyward and newcomer Melvin Ingram combine experience with production. Bringing the Steel Curtain all the way back to life may be a bit early, but this team won many games last year based on defense.
A QB who is startled by Watt in the face and quickly throws the ball deep, comes to the conclusion that one of the best ball hawks in the league is lurking with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Cornerback Mike Hilton is the only really important departure here besides Dupree. Devin Bush Jr had the breakthrough year as a linebacker in 2020, but got injured towards the end. That turned out to be an important loss, because he seems to be the beating heart of this defense.
The defense remains a solid mix of young and strong players with experience at all levels. In principle, an NFL team always participates in the playoffs.
Despite all the troubles with their salary cap, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to keep most of their top players. This team last year had a string of 11 wins in a row, but ended with a crash in the play-offs. The running game was a huge flaw at the time, but that was addressed in the draft. So all arrows seem to point in the right direction, but there are still some uncertainties. The offensive line is a question mark and the one they have to protect, Roethlisberger, is taking another year out of it. The question is whether he can maintain himself sufficiently to send this team to the play-offs. If he gets injured or Father Time comes knocking, there is no worthy alternative.