Back following a little break, it’s time for another installment of “Ranking the Starters” here at Steelers Depot.
In the last installment of the series, I left off with No. 18-16 for the Steelers’ starters in a list of 24 total names (including kicker and punter).
Today, I’ll take a look at No. 15-13 in the series as we wind down the grueling off-season before the start of another exciting training camp at St. Vincent next week.
No. 24 – Jordan Berry
No. 23 – Ross Cockrell
No. 22 – Eli Rogers
No. 21 – Jesse James
No. 20 – Artie Burns
No. 19 – Vince Williams
No. 18 – Bud Dupree
No. 17 – Chris Boswell
No. 16 – Ramon Foster
No. 15 – Alejandro Villanueva, OT
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of Villanueva’s.
We all know the incredible backstory and impressive transformation and development that AV went through to become a starting tackle in the NFL, but sometimes — at least to me on the outside — it seems that his talent gets overlooked as all people talk about is the military background.
Despite being a raw tackle in today’s game, Villanueva has developed into a steady presence protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side, and has even added some nastiness to his game as a run blocker for the Steelers.
Currently without a deal in place, AV could hold out at the start of training camp, but based on his development over the last two years and the physical tools at his disposal, I’m expecting the former Army Ranger to take another big leap in 2017 as a left tackle.
No. 14 — Javon Hargrave, DT
The “Gravedigger” was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last season, playing a ton of snaps as the starting nose tackle for the Steelers, while also filling in for the injured Cam Heyward at times last season in the Steelers’ nickel package.
Quick and agile for his size, Hargrave become a load to block down the stretch for the Steelers, wreaking havoc in the backfield and along the line of scrimmage in the trenches for a defense that vastly improved as the season wore on.
With No. 79 entrenched for the foreseeable future, the Steelers have a nice nucleus of young talent sprinkled throughout a defense that should be a lot better in 2017.
No. 13 — James Harrison, OLB
The man never ages. Clearly, Silverback is not human, which is fine by me, even though the NFL still tries to catch him slipping.
At 39 years old, Harrison will at least start the season as the “starter” at right outside linebacker, so that’s why I have him in this series over 2017 first-round pick TJ Watt.
However, I do think it’s quite clear that Watt will entrench himself as the starter off the edge before too long in the regular season.
For now though, Harrison is a viable piece to a defense that improved last season over time, and it’s important to not forget the fortunate holding call the ageless veteran drew in late in the Divisional Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
As the veteran leader on the defense, Harrison will leave a lasting impact on the young defenders of this defense, whether he’s on the field or not this season.
No. 15 – Bud Dupree
No. 14 – Lawrence Timmons
No. 13 – Maurkice Pouncey