5 best positional groups on the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021
By Tyler Jaggi
Now that the NFL Draft has help bolstered their roster, I rank the Pittsburgh Steelers five best positional group as we head into the 2021 season.
Because of the salary cap situation, the Steelers lost a lot of quality players this offseason. Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, and Alejandro Villanueva were all valuable assets who are no longer with the team, and this changes the quality and depth of several important positional groups.
Fortunately, the team did have nine draft choices this offseason to address a few big areas of need. Recently, I decided to give a detailed breakdown of Pittsburgh’s top five positional groups heading into the 2021 season. I based these rankings on talent at that position, the upside of what the players at that position could possibly become this season and comparing that position to how it stacks up around the league. Here’s what I came up with:
5. Wide Receiver
Starters: Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool
Role Players: James Washington
Reserve: Ray-Ray McCloud
Position grade: C+
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a young receiving core with James Washington being the oldest of the group at age 25. Other than JuJu Smith-Schuster signing his one-year deal to return to the team, the others are still on their rookie contracts and saving the Steelers cap space compared to other teams that have more money invested in the WR position. With youth comes potential and this group has the most to prove after a somewhat disappointing season.
The Steelers might be lacking a true number one receiver that all teams covet, but they do have a group of young WRs that fill certain roles. JuJu can move the chains and fight for the extra yards after the catch while working the middle of the field with his toughness. Meanwhile, Diontae Johnson has been good at getting separation on his short routes – giving Ben Roethlisberger a quick throwing option when there is constant pressure in his face. In addition, both Chase Claypool and James Washington were Steelers deep threats and big-play guys last year. Both can use their speed/size to create problems down the field and each is decent after the catch.
As of now, this WR core isn’t a top 10 unit across the league but if they all hit their potential, that isn’t an impossible task this season. What might impact how these wide receivers do more than anything is the success of the offensive line and their ability to protect Big Ben.