With the season rapidly approaching, now is as good a time as any to think about which under-the-radar Pittsburgh Steelers will have a breakout season in 2017.
While the big names obviously have an impact on games, it is these kind of quality role players that can be the difference between a very good season and a championship run. There are a plethora of players that could blow up this season, but here are who I believe will have a positive impact on this year’s campaign.
TE Xavier Grimble
Grimble had a solid 2016 as a reserve tight end as he had 11 receptions for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season while Steeler quarterbacks had a passer rating of 100.9 when targeting him, which is the best among Pittsburgh’s unit according to Pro Football Focus. In addition to being a big target in the passing game, he is also a very capable run blocker, and that fact improves his value to the team and makes it hard for him to come off the field. Even though Jesse James proved he could be a reliable target last season, don’t sleep on the tight end battle in training camp because it is a battle that Grimble has more than a chance of winning.
S Daimion Stafford
As a Tennessee Titan last season, Stafford had the best season of his career as he recorded 52 tackles, two passes defensed, a fumble recovery, an interception, and a sack in six starts and 15 games played. He has also improved his coverage rating the last three years per PFF and is the second-highest graded Steelers safety behind Mike Mitchell. A vaunted run-stopper, Stafford could be a valuable asset on the back end even with Mitchell and Sean Davis manning the middle of the field for the defense.
DT Javon Hargrave
Entering his second season in the league, Hargrave may have already proved himself as the man in the middle of the defensive line as he had the highest pass rushing grade among rookie interior linemen over the last six weeks of the season in 2016 according to PFF. He also did a capable job in filling in for an injured Cameron Heyward as he tallied 27 tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery in 15 games played and 13 starts. If he can continue his development as a well-rounded defender, Hargrave will be a force for the defense in the coming seasons.
Who do you believe will give the Steelers the upper hand in 2017? Let us know in the comments below.