Steelers in Position for Significant Boost on Special Teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers' offense improved, and defensive depth got deeper, but the team's biggest winner in the 2021 NFL Draft is special teams.
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PITTSBURGH -- Everyone is talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers' run game, defensive potential and undrafted rookies, but you want to know where their biggest upgrade came? Special teams. 

The hype of seventh-round pick Pressley Harvin III is real. Fans and media cannot get enough of the 255-pound punter, and for good reason. Not only does the Georgia Tech grad throw touchdown passes and squat linebacker weight, but he averaged 48 yards per punt his senior year as a Yellow Jacket and finished his college career with 9,396 punting yards. 

And that's just the beginning. The Steelers love to add defensive depth that contributes on punt and kick teams. Buddy Johnson has starting potential down the road, but even if he plays limited defensive snaps as a rookie, the fourth-round pick is perfect for special teams. 

"You don't get that time to do all of that stuff as a linebacker in the National Football League unless you show that you are valuable to the team," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "How do you do that? You play good special teams and that's a big part of what we emphasize here."

A speedy inside linebacker with high football IQ and instinctive tackling skills. Last season, special teams took a boost with Alex Highsmith joining the team. This season, Johnson looks to fill that role. All with Marcus Allen likely taking on his predominant special teams role back with so much depth now at inside backer.

"Special teams' area isn't really talked about much, so I look forward to playing special teams," Johnson said. "It's part of football. It's something that has to be played. I love special teams. Personally, I love the defensive side of special teams. So, I look forward to contributing however I can."

Quincy Roche will have the same responsibilities. The sixth-round pick has the potential to play a decent number of defensive snaps as a rookie. A player the Steelers had graded as a third-round option, Roche fell into an opportunity to contribute behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. He'll add plenty of special team snaps as well. 

"I'm not a guy that will just run a 4.3. I'm not going to jump a 45 inch vertical, but I have decent athleticism," Roche said. "I'm a technician and I'm a football player. When I line up in front of a guy, my technique and my football intelligence is what's going to make me a good player, while I still possess athleticism."

A player with development ahead of him before he's competing for a starting job, but one who certainly brings upside to the team and a high skill set for special teams. 

All this adds onto Miles Killebrew joining the team to replace Jordan Dangerfield, Derrick Watt becoming the team's primary special teamer and a number of undrafted rookies bringing special teams potential. 

Lamont Wade, Shakur Brown and Donovan Stiner are all names to watch as undrafted rookies who can crack the roster as special teams contributors. 

Special teams coordinator Danny Smith has plenty of options this season. A real opportunity to replace Jordan Berry presents itself, and a handful of young punt and kick specialists are walking into the locker room. 

The Steelers always aim to boost the third part of a football game. Last season they took a step forward. This season, there's potential to take this group near the top of the league.

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