Back again for installment No. 2 of the “Ranking the Starters” series, today we’ll take a look at No. 17-12 for the projected starters on the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Keep in mind that this list is 24 players deep, with 11 starters on offense and 11 on defense, as well as a kicker and punter.
I know most of you weren’t happy with No. 24-18 last week, but lets give this one a shot today.
No. 17 — Sammie Coates, WR
Look, I completely understand that Coates is staring down the barrel of a gun when it comes to a major increase in workload and responsibility this season due to the suspension of Martavis Bryant. But, with that being said, it’s simply way too early to think that Coates is a valuable member of this starting unit.
I’m certainly rooting for the young wide receiver, but one playoff game against Denver isn’t enough to show me he’s ready — or capable — of being a significant part of the 2016 Pittsburgh offense.
No. 16 — Ramon Foster, OG
Foster is the ultimate teammate, one that is a major commodity to have on a young offensive line like the Steelers have (age wise). He’s as solid as they come, but if he were ever to go down with an injury for a long period of time his absence wouldn’t affect the Steelers’ offense that much.
Sure, he’s a great run blocker, but he’s not very athletic along the interior and really struggled at times last season as a pass blocker. With a full off-season of work next to Alejandro Villanueva, Foster should improve, especially after signing a 3-year deal in free agency.
I also understand that’s it’s way too hard to try and place value on what a guy brings in the locker room, so that’s why I didn’t dive into it too much above.
No. 15 — Bud Dupree, OLB
I certainly think Dupree is in for a big, big year coming off the edge for the Steelers’ defense under Keith Butler, but at this point he’s still a developing piece. While his success off the edge will play a direct factor into the performance of the pass defense (the more heat, the better chance of forcing turnovers in the backend), his progression in year two won’t have a large affect on the fate of this year’s team as currently constructed.
No. 14 — Lawrence Timmons, ILB
As a two-down linebacker, Timmons came off the field quite a bit late in the season as teams looked to spread the field and throw against the Steelers. Due to the fact that he’s not much more than a solid two-down linebacker in today’s game where it’s best to never come off the field, Timmons’ value — to me — has dropped significantly, which should make for an intriguing off-season next year.
Timmons’ contract will be up at the end of the 2016 season. Although I have advocated for the Steelers re-signing him, it wouldn’t shock me if this is the last season in black-and-gold for the former first round pick out of Florida State.
No. 13 — Maurkice Pouncey, C
And this is where things start to get controversial in this post. I understand that Ben Roethlisberger and the coaching staff think the world of Pouncey, but the fact of the matter is that he’s an injury-prone center. Sure, when healthy he’s still an elite player at his position, but based off of last season, it doesn’t really matter who is in at center for this offense.
I completely understand the thought that Cody Wallace is below-average and nothing more than a backup, but the fact of the matter is that the Steelers rushed for more than 108 yards per game last season without him, as DeAngelo Williams fell just short of 1,000 yards after taking over for Le’Veon Bell after his knee injury. Add into the mix that the Steelers finished as a top 5 offense without Pouncey snapping the ball and calling the protections and things start to add up that maybe — just maybe (please don’t jump to conclusions on this one and think that I think he’s expendable) — his value is slightly diminishing in Pittsburgh.
No. 12 — Ladarius Green, TE
Green has some major shoes to fill in Pittsburgh. That’s part of the reason why I think he’s higher up the list than expected when it comes to value on this team.
Heath Miller certainly won’t be replaced by one guy because of everything he was able to do in any situation on the field, but Green should be able to put up similar receiving numbers with Roethlisberger throwing him the ball in a No. 1 TE role in Pittsburgh.
Green is coming off of ankle surgery, so we’ll see where he is heading into camp, but this is a big year for the free agent addition, especially with more targets to go around with the Bryant suspension.