CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin has unveiled his ranking of the top-ten defenses entering the 2021 season, and has the Pittsburgh Steelers as the fifth-best unit in the NFL.
“Pittsburgh is also still just loaded with talent at all three levels, with T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Joe Haden, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Cameron Sutton, and Justin Layne all returning from last year’s team,” Dubin wrote.
While Bud Dupree will certainly be missed on the edge, Dubin is confident in Pittsburgh’s young pass rushers to offset his departure.
“Losing Bud Dupree hurts, but Alex Highsmith did a solid job filling in last season, and the Steelers picked up Quincy Roche in the sixth round, and he should help as well,” Dubin writes.
Still, it is no secret the Steelers have questions in the secondary following the departures of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson at cornerback. Dubin sees that as a red flag entering the season.
“The only real concern here is second-unit depth, which has been sapped by the team’s cap constraints over these past few years,” Dubin added.
Pittsburgh paced the NFL with 56 sacks and tied for the league-lead with 18 interceptions a season ago. The Steelers also recorded the second-most takeaways in football, and finished third in scoring defense and yards allowed.
Both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens are ranked ahead of Pittsburgh at Nos. 3 and 4, setting up the AFC North to be a battle of defensive juggernauts as in years past. Washington is the top-ranked defensive unit entering the 2021 season. Tampa Bay is second.