In the last installment of the Ranking the Starters series for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I took a look at No. 21-19, which can be found here. Some readers had issues with Terrell Edmunds and Matt Feiler making early appearances in this series, but it’s just how I have them ranked. I’m still very high on both, but this is mostly based off of last year’s results, and how I have them ranked overall. Obviously, things can change drastically in this series next year.
Today, I’ll take a look at No. 18-16 in the series.
For clarity’s sake, we’ll run down the 24 starters, which include kicker and punter, but not long snapper or returners. Offensively, I’m going to rank the starters based on a three-wide set, with one tight end, meaning no fullback (sorry Rosie Nix fans). Defensively, I’m going to roll with the Steelers’ 3-4 defense, even though they run their nickel package much more than the actual 3-4 defense. So that means no Mike Hilton in this list.
Additionally, this list is based off my own personal rankings regarding skills, not value to the team like I did two years ago.
For fun, here’s how last season’s rankings went from No. 18-16 (I screwed up the last installment’s look back, and instead listed the 2017 list):
No. 18 — Jesse James, TE
No. 17 – Vince Williams, ILB
No. 16 — Javon Hargrave, NT
Alright, let’s get started on this year’s No. 18-16
No. 18 — Sean Davis, S
At this point, it’s getting pretty ridiculous the amount of hate Steelers fans give Sean Davis. No, he’s not a game-changing safety, and no, he’s probably not in the top 7-8 at the position, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a solid safety.
In 2018, Davis really took a sizeable step forward, both as a run defender and in coverage. If Davis could catch the football consistently, he’d probably have had 5 interceptions last season. He missed far too many tackles last year, but was around the football a ton and really affected the game series to series.
I’d like to see him get a reasonable extension to stick around; I think his best days are ahead.
No. 17 — Bud Dupree, OLB
My line of thought with Davis and Steelers fans is roughly the same for Bud Dupree. He’s not an elite pass rusher, but he’s a solid fit for what the Steelers ask him to do. In 2018, I thought he took a step forward as a pass rusher and run defender and really seemed to stay relatively healthy for the first time in his career.
Down the stretch, TJ Watt and Dupree proved to be a tough tandem to block for tackles, helping the Steelers really rack up the sacks and pressures.
Dupree isn’t Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, or even James Harrison, but he’s a solid football player in his own right. I get the hate at times, because he does disappear often, but his teammates love him, and Watt has gone on record multiple times saying how important Dupree is opposite him.
Don’t be surprised if Dupree breaks out this year.
No. 16 — Vince Williams, ILB
Personally, I am a big fan of Vince Williams and what he brings to a football team; I just wish he played in a different era.
Williams is a terrific run defender and blitzer, but he’s a problem in pass coverage, which is why the Steelers emphasized athleticism at the position this offseason when they traded up to draft Devin Bush, and signed Mark Barron in free agency.
Williams will likely end up losing his starting job at some point this season to Barron, who brings a bit more to the defense than Williams, but make no mistake, Williams is the heart and soul of this defensive room, along with Cam Heyward. Should he lose his spot on defense, Williams will become a force on special teams.
He’s simply a player you want on your team no matter what.