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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Starter: Tyson Alualu
Backup: Chris Wormley
Inactive: Carlos Davis
No changes here from 2020.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.