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2021 NFL Draft

Steelers Post-Draft Depth Chart Projection

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled their offseason roster after drafting nine players in the 2021 NFL Draft and adding another eight undrafted free agents following it.

How will the new additions fit into the team? Let’s take a look at our Steelers Now projected 2021 depth chart:

QUARTERBACK

Starter: Ben Roethlisberger
Backup: Mason Rudolph
Inactive: Josh Dobbs OR Dwayne Haskins
Practice Squad: Dwayne Haskins OR Roland Rivers III

Rudolph’s contract extension is a clear sign the team sees him as Roethlisberger’s likely successor at this point, and he’ll get all the chances to show his growth if Roethlisberger misses any time.

RUNNING BACK

Starter: Najee Harris
Backups: Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr.; Kalen Ballage OR Jaylen Samuels
Practice Squad: Trey Edmunds

Not every rookie drafted late in the first round steps right into a starting role, but the Steelers wouldn’t have pulled the taken the risk on taking a running back if they weren’t going to use him. There’s a bit of a logjam behind him, with five players with NFL experience that could shake out a number of different ways, but one vet probably doesn’t make the team.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Starters: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool
Backups: James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
Practice Squad: Cody White, Isaiah McKoy

The top five all return. It’ll be interesting to see if the Steelers decide to carry a sixth wide receiver or not this year. McKoy, a UDFA from Kent State, has as good of a shot as grabbing that last spot as anyone if so.

TIGHT END

Starters: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth
Backups: Zach Gentry OR Kevin Rader
Practice Squad: Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader OR Dax Raymond

This will be basically the same group as last year, with Freiermuth slotting in for the retired Vance McDonald. Rader emerged as an option while Gentry was out with injury, and that could be a battle worth watching.

TACKLE

Starters: Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor
Backup: Joe Haeg
Inactive: Dan Moore Jr.
Practice Squad: Anthony Coyle

Banner and Okorafor appear fairly locked into their spots. Moore could certainly pass Haeg either in training camp or as the season goes on, but unless someone gets injured, it’s hard to see him cracking the starting lineup as a rookie.

GUARD

Starters: David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson
Backup: B.J. Finney
Practice Squad: Rashaad Coward

The drafting of Kendrick Green means Finney should see more time at guard than center and his versatility makes him more likely to be active on game days than Coward.

CENTER

Starter: Kendrick Green OR J.C. Hassenauer
Backup: Kendrick Green OR J.C. Hassenauer

Not too many third-round picks are first-day starters as rookies, but Green has a decent shot to beat out Finney and Hassenauer and do exactly that.

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DEFENSIVE END

Starters: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt
Backups: Isaiah Buggs; Henry Mondeaux OR Isaiahh Loudermilk
Practice Squad: Henry Mondeaux OR Isaiahh Loudermilk

The starters are entrenched. Loudermilk will have to find a way to either beat out Buggs as the No. 3 end or Mondeaux as a special teams performer to get a spot as a rookie.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Starter: Tyson Alualu
Backup: Chris Wormley
Inactive: Carlos Davis

No changes here from 2020.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Starters: Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt
Backups: Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche
Practice Squad: Jamar Watson

Highsmith steps into a full-time starting role, Roche replaces Highsmith, and this unit soldiers along. Watson had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss last season at Kentucky and could be a UDFA to watch at a position of minimal depth.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Starters: Devin Bush, Vince Williams
Backups: Robert Spillane, Miles Killebrew OR Ulysees Gilbert III
Inactive: Buddy Johnson

No position on the depth chart is more crowded than at inside linebacker, where six players with NFL experience reside, in addition to fourth-round pick Buddy Johnson. I’ve moved Marcus Allen back to strong safety in an attempt to make the logjam work, but one vet probably still has to go.

CORNERBACK

Starters: Joe Haden, Cam Sutton
Nickel, Dime: James Pierre, Tre Norwood
Backup: Justin Layne
Practice Squad: Shakur Brown, Mark Gilbert

Haden, Sutton and Pierre seem fairly entrenched after the team didn’t make a significant defensive back addition this offseason. Norwood has a shot to stick at Dime, but will face competition from Layne, Brown, Gilbert and safeties Antoine Brooks Jr. and Lamont Wade

SAFETY

Starters: Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick
Backup: Antoine Brooks Jr. OR Marcus Allen
Inactive: Antoine Brooks Jr. OR Marcus Allen
Practice Squad: Lamont Wade

Allen is the better special teamer, so expect him to grab the third helmet here unless Brooks can win the Dime role. Wade is also a slot option.

SPECIALISTS

Kicker: Chris Boswell
Long Snapper:Kameron Canaday
Punter:Pressley Harvin III OR Jordan Berry

It appears there will be a punting competition after the team used a draft pick to nab Harvin, but Berry remains on the team.

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