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Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Season Preview

An outlook on the Steelers roster, predictions and expectations for the upcoming season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going all in. They have to, right? If this is Ben Roethlisberger's last ride, this team's only option is to give their quarterback everything they've got. And, so far, they have. 

The Steelers have made move after move to clean up the worrisome areas of their roster. They went out and signed Melvin Ingram, Trai Turner and traded for Joe Schobert, who all combine for nine Pro Bowl appearances. 

It's pretty clear they know this is their last best chance to win a Super Bowl. 

While plenty of eyes remain on the future and whether or not Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins will be the successor of Roethlisberger, the Steelers are focused on now. 

With a first-round running back, a healthy defense and a rebooted offense, Pittsburgh is looking at 2021 as their year to bring home Lombardi No. 7 - for No. 7.


Offense

The Steelers' offense will be defined by their offensive line. Drafting Najee Harris in the first round sent a message that this team is determined to get the running game back on track. Unfortunately, five new starters on the line leaves a pretty big question mark as to whether or not they'll be able to pull it off.

With Roethlisberger playing what many believe is his final season, the Steelers have done everything they can to keep this team as big of a contender as possible. Why not? No. 7 has given this organization two Super Bowls; why not give him everything for one last run. 

If the run game doesn't work, the Steelers have options through the air. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington (maybe) could very well be the best wide receiving corps in the NFL. Add Eric Ebron and rookie Pat Freiermuth to that mix, and Pittsburgh has themselves a sure-fire air attack - on paper. 

You could even expect to see fullback Derek Watt in the mix. No, not T.J., Derek. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has made plenty of changes to this scheme, but the one that could catch people by surprise is the use of a fullback. 

Watt will be featured in the backfield, at halfback and at tight end. 

The offense will miss left tackle Zach Banner and running back Anthony McFarland for at least the first three weeks, after the team placed them on Injured Reserve. Both will hold prominent roles in this offense. Both will leave major gaps in their absence.

Changes are coming, but still expect Big Ben to draw some plays in the dirty when he sees something he likes. 


Defense

It's all about T.J. Watt, right? Maybe not, but that's definitely where it starts when you're talking about the Steelers' defense. 

Watt is walking into a season where he's finished as a Defensive Player of the Year finalist twice. This past season, even if he won't admit it, you can tell it bugged him when Aaron Donald was given the award. 

This defense is going to help him pull that award in in 2021. Offenses can try as much as they want to put extra coverage on the edge rusher, but they'll then have to deal with Alex Highsmith - who looks like a new and improved version of Bud Dupree - and free-agent signing Melvin Ingram. 

And this is all before you mention the veterans who have already been there. 

Cameron Heyward knows his clock is ticking and he wants to win a Super Bowl. Stephon Tuitt will start the season on IR but all hope is that he returns sooner rather than later. Tyson Alualu returned in dramatic fashion and is ready to spend another year as a key piece to the middle of this defense. This group might make the best front seven in football. 

In the secondary, there are concerns at cornerback. The Steelers are still looking for a replacement at nickelback after losing Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson. The hope is Cam Sutton can play opposite of Joe Haden and the team can find a suitable slot. So far, that hasn't happened. 

Pittsburgh might be forced to bump Sutton to the inside and rely on second-year corner James Pierre on the outside. Pierre is an undrafted free agent who showed some potential at the end of last season, and who has had his star-studded moments at training camp. 

Between his Madden 22 rating and his placement on the NFL Top 100, Minkah Fitzpatrick has enough motivation to last a lifetime, let alone a season. The two-time All-Pro should make it three in 2021. 

Terrell Edmunds is still a question mark, but he's improving by the year. With no guarantee on his future, he could be looking to make a splash this season. 


Predicted Record

11-6

The Steelers have the NFL's toughest strength of schedule, which won't make it easy to come out of 2021 with a winning record. That being said, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin has never ended a season with a losing record, Roethlisberger is hunting one final miracle playoff run and the defense is still one of the league's best. Don't let their concerns overshadow the bright spots of this team.


Expected Depth Chart

Offense

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger, Dwayne Haskins, Mason Rudolph

Running Back: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Kalen Ballage

Fullback: Derek Watt

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Wide Receiver: Diontae Johnson, James Washington

Slot Receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud

Wide Receiver: Chase Claypool

Left Tackle: Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg

Left Guard: Kevin Dotson 

Center: Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer

Right Guard: Trai Turner, Rashaad Coward

Right Tackle: Chukwuma Okorafor

Tight End: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Defense 

Nose Tackle: Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs

Defensive Tackle: Cameron Heyward, Isaiahh Loudermilk

Defensive End: Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis

Right Outside Linebacker: Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Jamir Jones

Inside Linebacker: Devin Bush, Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III

Inside Linebacker: Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson

Left Outside Linebacker: T.J. Watt, Melvin Ingram, Jamir Jones

Cornerback: James Pierre, Justin Layne

Free Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tre Norwood

Strong Safety: Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew

Cornerback: Joe Haden, Ahkello Witherspoon

Nickelback: Cameron Sutton, Arthur Maulet

Special Teams

Kicker: Chris Boswell

Punter: Pressley Harvin III

Longsnapper: Christian Kuntz

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.