Every team has turnover from one season to the next and the Steelers are no exception.
The team will feel radically different thanks to the return of Ben Roethlisberger, but the roster is mostly intact. Gone are some backups and veterans, a few underperforming defensive backs, and a couple of special teams aces, but that’s it.
This year, the Steelers have had a pretty active offseason, bringing in tight end Eric Ebron, offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski and defensive tackle Chris Wormley along with multiple former XFL players and the team’s 2020 NFL Draft haul, albeit one that’s smaller than usual thanks to their lack of a first-round pick. The team also recently added 10 undrafted free agents. With the Steelers track record on the matter, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them make a splash down the line.
On offense, the Steelers will return over 96% of their on-field production from 2019 and will be bolstered by the signing of Ebron.
It’s just going to feel like the Steelers added to their quarterback room in 2019 with the return of Roethlisberger from injury. The team opted not to draft a successor for Roethlisberger and will go with Rudolph as the de facto No. 2 to start next season.
The Steelers drafted McFarland with their first of two fourth-round selections. He will join a crowded Steelers backfield lead by Conner and Snell, neither of which produced much last year. Conner lead all backs with 715 total yards and seven touchdowns but dealt with injuries most of the year. Expect to see more of a rotation with Conner, Snell and McFarland likely receiving the bulk of the carries. The only loss is Tony Brooks-James, who had 7 yards in 2019.
The Steelers replaced Rosie Nix with the third Watt brother, Derek Watt.
Donte Moncrief is long gone, so really the Steelers are only losing Tevin Jones and Johnny Holton, who combined for 91 yards in 2019. The Steelers have added former XFL-er Saeed Blacknall and 2nd round pick Chase Claypool to young receiver room that has lots of talent, if not experience.
The disappointing Nick Vannet and Xavier Grimble are both gone, but the Steelers prize offseason acquisition, Eric Ebron, should more than make up for their losses. Behind Ebron and McDonald, however, it’s a very thin group. Kevin Rader and Christian Scotland-Williamson are probably practice squad members and Zach Gentry is still extremely raw. It will be interesting to see if the former fifth-round pick shows much progression.
With Foster’s retirement the team loses some experience, but that is likely negated by two-time Super Bowl winner Stefen Wisniewski. The Steelers let backup B.J. Finney walk, but he only played 33% of the team’s snaps in 2019. The Steelers received lots of praise for their fourth-round pick of Kevin Dotson from Louisiana and some view him as a potential long-term starter in the league.
Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp
There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.
“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”
Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.
NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North
It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.
But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.
NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.
“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 25, 2021
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”
Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.
NFL Head Coach: Bud Dupree’s Injury Cause for Uncertainty Entering Free Agency
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is set to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but one head coach believes he could be waiting a while to sign.
Speaking with FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, an NFL head coach, speaking anonymously, said Dupree’s season-ending knee injury has made his free agency outlook uncertain.
“Bud Dupree is someone that is a real question mark for me,” the head coach told FanSided. “If he was healthy, he’s easily the top pass-rusher hitting the open market, and teams would pay a king’s ransom to sign him. But, with him coming off a torn ACL, what exactly are you committing to? Does he want to go back to Pittsburgh? Who knows, but he’s someone that I think will wind up having to wait a while to sign.”
Lombardo compares Dupree’s situation to Tennessee Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last offseason.
While he had not suffered a significant injury the season prior with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, Clowney signed with Tennessee on just a one-year, $12-million deal. He had been expected to be paid handsomely on a lengthier contract, which obviously did not come to fruition.
Clowney was virtually invisible for the Titans, recording no sacks in eight games before being placed on injured reserve in November.
Due to his torn ACL, Dupree could find himself having to settle on a cheaper, one-year “prove it” deal as well. Ideally he would then cash in during the 2022 free agency period is all goes as planned.
Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles through eleven games.
After playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid Dupree $15.828 million, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation will most likely prevent them from bringing him back. Still, the brass of the organization has expressed their desire to do so if circumstances were different.
While the knee injury remains a concern, Dupree shared he was ahead of schedule in his recovery when he joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football late last month.