Pittsburgh Steelers True or False: May Editionby James Dudko May 16, 2021 1 comment
Ben Roethlisberger is running out of opportunities to add a third Lombardi Trophy to his resume. His and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ attempts were ended by the rival Cleveland Browns in 2020, but the Steelers have wisely reloaded at a key position next to their franchise quarterback. Top draft pick Najee Harris should give Roethlisberger the complement on the ground he missed last season. Harris’ potential impact is one of the main questions facing the Steelers in May.
Pittsburgh will Rank in the Top 10 in Both Passing and Rushing Offense?
True. There’s nothing wrong with the Steelers’ passing game, even if injuries have taken some of Roethlisberger’s arm strength away in recent years. Fortunately, Big Ben is still supported by one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL. JuJu Smith-Schuster returning was a bonus because it gives Roethlisberger that safety valve on third downs every quarterback craves.
There are other riches underneath, like tight ends Eric Ebron and rookie Pat Freiermuth. Meanwhile, the vertical element of this offense is supplied by Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. Most quarterbacks in the league would be grateful for this many weapons to aim for on Sundays.
Ironically, there may not be as many passes to go around this season. Not if Harris delivers on his promise as the 24th overall pick. It was a coup for the Steelers to land a running back this versatile and dominate so late in the first round. Harris will put some punch in a running game that averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt in 2020. This offense now has the playmakers to be among the most prolific in the league in both phases.
The Offensive Line Doesn’t Need Any More Additions?
False. It’s not often this franchise doesn’t cover all of the bases, but the Steelers haven’t done enough to strengthen a suspect offensive line. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has joined AFC North nemesis the Baltimore Ravens, leaving question marks on Roethlisberger’s blindside. Those questions are expected to be answered by Chukwuma Okorafor, a guy who played right tackle last season.
There are even more changes along the interior, following the retirement of center Maurkice Pouncey. Kevin Dotson is moving to left guard, while David DeCastro is back at right guard. They could flank journeyman B.J. Finney at center. In this context, it’s surprising the Steelers waited until the third round to add some bodies to this side of the trenches. Kendrick Green played guard at Illinois, while fourth-rounder Dan Moore Jr. was an athletic tackle at Texas A&M. Both have raw talent but need to significantly outperform their draft status if they are going to help the Steelers as rookies.
Teams have been making moves to land capable, veteran pass-protectors since the draft ended. The Indianapolis Colts signed Eric Fisher, while the Washington Football Team added Charles Leno Jr., but the Steelers have stayed quiet. This line has options but would look a lot stronger with an experienced tackle like Russell Okung or Jason Peters added to the mix.
The Steelers Can Post Double-Digit Wins from the NFL’s Toughest Schedule?
True. Nobody faces a tougher slog in the new season than the Steelers. Road trips to take on the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers occur in the first four weeks. Pittsburgh will also travel to face the defending AFC champions the Kansas City Chiefs. A roll call of playoff-caliber teams getting the chance to prey on a 39-year-old quarterback is a combination that could spell doom. Yet there’s reason to believe the Steelers will manage the schedule well and still win at least 10 games during the regular season.
This offense is loaded, despite the depreciation of talent in the trenches. A revamped running game will help Roethlisberger get back to his best, while he’s going to have a tough time picking his go-to receiver each week. It’s a similar story on defense, where the unit remains strong, thanks largely to one of the biggest and toughest lines in football. The Steelers are close to a complete team, and their strength in depth will make a lot of those tricky games easier than they appear.
The Steelers Have Replaced Bud Dupree?
False. Pressure’s not a problem for a defense that logged 56 sacks a year ago, but Dupree will be missed. He signed a bumper contract with the Tennessee Titans during free agency and hasn’t been adequately replaced. Sure, T.J. Watt is still around to bring havoc from one edge, while Cameron Heyward and the brilliant Stephon Tuitt are a formidable one-two punch at defensive end.
The question remains, though, who is going to pick up the slack in Dupree’s old spot. Alex Highsmith is likely to get the first crack, but he’s only started five games and recorded two sacks as a pro. Again, the Steelers sprung another surprise by waiting until the sixth round of this year’s draft to address edge-rusher. Quincy Roche will have to prove one of the bargains of this year’s class if he’s going to replace Dupree.
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