The Steelers are approaching the first game fast. Time to get some last second predictions in. Who are the Steelers players ready to take their game to the next level?
The Steelers recently announced they have cut down the roster to 53. We officially know who the Steelers are. The regular season is coming in hot. So let’s figure out who we can anticipate taking it to the next level.
Some players on the roster are pretty much at the highest level already. We can leave Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown off this list. It’s probably also not worth talking about such established players as Pouncey, DeCastro, Heyward, and Timmons. We’re also going to leave rookies off the list as their is no baseline from which to judge progress.
Finally, just to be clear, these are predictions. There has to be some degree of certainty, though short of actually certain. There will be players not on this list. Some of these absent players we hope will take the next step. But if they are not on this list then there is just not enough reason to bet on it essentially.
So here they are.
Heyward has been on the pro bowl bubble for years now and Tuitt might just leap frog him. The two are the centerpieces of the Steelers run defense as well as their formerly linebacker driven pass rush. He’s very athletic given his size and strength and Butler’s defensive approach should allow him to wrack up stats.
He’s not been injured yet. Shazier has shown flashes. In the Bengals playoff game he was a force. He owned San Francisco’s offense earlier in the season. But otherwise he’s dealing with injuries. He’s the fastest player on the team and he’s middle linebacker. All it takes is 16 games and Shazier could be a star. Sounds easy but hasn’t happened yet.
Robert Golden has been a special teams standout, and captain, for years. He never really got much of a look at safety. With Thomas struggling and Allen injured he was the only one left last season. Turns out, he’s actually not bad. He played the run well and the pass. Read the offense, was in position. He’s going to show this year he deserves to be an NFL starter.
Mitchell will have a second solid year, third overall with the Steelers, after a rough first year. It probably won’t rise to a pro bowl level but he could be the the Cam Heyward of the secondary. William Gay part 2 even. Just a solid, reliable player who you can have confidence in. He’s got speed and he’s a tough guy. Mitchell will take the next step and could be a future leader for the team.
Gilbert, depending on the elbow, will do basically as well as he did last year. The difference we can anticipate is that people will notice. It was not until the end of or after the season people started to appreciate how good Gilbert is. Such is life in a break out year, particularly in a position that doesn’t have stats. It depends on how serious that elbow is but Gilbert could be one of the best in the league at right tackle.
Now don’t expect Coates to be better than Bryant or even to leapfrog Wheaton. But expect him to show he can contribute in the NFL. Coates will have some learning left to do. He’ll drop a pass. He’ll run a wrong route. It’s his second year after all. What he’ll also do is deliver some big plays and tough catches and make Steelers fans excited for where his ceiling is.
Going back to college, James is used to being the young guy thrown into a mess and rising to the occasion. The plan with James was, ideally, see if he can take over for Miller after he retires next year. He retired this year. Then the plan was for him to be second TE after Green. Green is … who knows? James is very tall and has solid athleticism and hands. He’s a decent blocker. Expect him to shine in the red zone.
What about Dupree, Jones, Wheaton, McCullers? Well they might break out. It’s certainly possible. They just haven’t shown enough to make it likely. These 7 players however are highly likely to get to the next level. They’ll have at least a 5 point improvement in their Madden 2017 ratings. We’ll put it that way. What do you think? Anyone left out?