With training camp and preseason over for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we can now project the starting lineup for the team based on what we saw over the last month.
The Steelers had a disappointing end to the season in 2020 after a fabulous 11-0 start. The team suffered 28 points during the first quarter of a playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, and will now look to rebound in what is probably Ben Roethlisberger's last season.
On that note, here's a look at the projected starting lineup for the Steelers in the first week:
2021 Pittsburgh Steelers starting lineup
QB - Ben Roethlisberger
The veteran is back for another season, hoping Matt Canada's offense will spearhead the Steelers to playoff success for what is expected to be Roethlisberger's final year in the NFL.
Even though his arm is far from what it was a decade ago, he's still an intelligent player who can make smart decisions with the ball and move the chains. With a new, more mobile offense, Roethlisberger's play could take a positive turn in 2021.
RB - Najee Harris
Harris should have a big role in the Steelers' offense this season. They hope to be able to run the ball more effectively than in 2020, even though Harris' arrival won't fix the main problem: the offensive line can't block.
He's a smart, strong runner who can also feature in the passing game, and is a good pass protector, something that should help Roethlisberger, as the offensive line last year was abysmal.
WR - Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Talk about a team that can find great value in the second day of the draft, huh? None of the starting trios of receivers were first-round picks. Claypool stepped up in a big way as a rookie, and Johnson has incredible potential to be a deep threat, though.
Canada's offense should put them in motion way more times than presnap, and their agility and speed could be a threat to opposing offenses. JuJu needs to become a more consistent version of himself, though.
TE - Eric Ebron
Well, it is what it is here. Ebron's not a reliable player by any means, and possesses a history of drops since his days with the Detroit Lions. Look for Pat Freiermuth to push for more playing time as the season goes on.
OL - Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, JC Hassenauer, Trai Turner, Zach Banner
You can bet that this will be the Steelers' Achilles heel during the season. What was already a poor unit got even worse with Alejandro Villanueva leaving for rivals Baltimore Ravens and center Maurkice Pouncey retiring.
Trai Turner is the only above-average player in the offensive line, but even he is coming from a poor campaign. Pittsburgh couldn't do much to fix the problem because they were in cap hell, so they are set to suffer in 2021.
DL - Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt
One of the best defensive lines in the entire league, they're two really good players in Heyward and Tuitt, and even Alualu has stepped in well in the last few years. The strength of the team is in the front seven, and the defensive line is a great start.
LB - TJ Watt, Melvin Ingram, Devin Bush, Joe Schobert
The Steelers' linebacker group is even better with the new faces who arrived during the offseason. While Watt and Bush are two of the best players in their roles across the league, Ingram and Schobert make for a nice duo to complement them. Watt is one of the biggest favorites to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
DBs - Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick makes for a superstar as a defensive back, as he can do basically anything to help the pass defense, but the rest of the group is a concern. Haden's play is not as great anymore, as Sutton and Edmunds aren't trustworthy in the back four.
Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick's presence and the power of the pass-rush pressuring opposing quarterbacks should make the Steelers' pass defense one of the best in the NFL once again.
ST - Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Kameron Canaday
Harvin won the battle to be the Steelers' 2021 punter, with a nice showing in training camp. Neither Boswell nor Canaday faced any competition.