Now that we’ve wrapped up the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series here at Steelers Depot, it’s time to turn our attention to the Ranking the Starters series for the Steelers.
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.
I’ll run down this group of 24 players in groups of three, making for an eight-piece series. Today, we’ll start off with No. 24-22. Here’s how last season’s rankings went.
Before we get started, I’ll give you a brief rundown of names to expect in this series, as I make my starters projections.
QB — Ben Roethlisberger
RB — James Conner
WR — JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR – Donte Moncrief
WR – James Washington
TE — Vance McDonald
LT — Alejandro Villanueva
LG — Ramon Foster
C — Maurkice Pouncey
RG — David DeCastro
RT – Matt Feiler
DE — Cameron Heyward
NT — Javon Hargrave
DE — Stephon Tuitt
OLB — Bud Dupree
ILB — Vince Williams
ILB — Devin Bush
OLB — TJ Watt
CB — Joe Haden
CB — Steven Nelson
S — Sean Davis
S — Terrell Edmunds
K – Chris Boswell
P — Jordan Berry
Got it? Good.
Last note: here’s how the list started out last season with No’s: 24-22.
No. 24 — Jordan Berry
No. 23 — Tyler Matakevich
No. 22 — Sean Davis
Here we go.
No. 24 — Jordan Berry, P
This really shouldn’t be a surprise. If the Steelers were to upgrade any of the “starters” before the start of the regular season, I think the two specialists – Berry and Chris Boswell – are the two clear-cut choices.
Sure, Berry was asked to directionally kick a lot last year under special teams coordinator Danny Smith, but the veteran punter really struggled with placement and distance, resulting in the inability to truly flip the field.
When he’s allowed to cut it loose, he can really boom punts, but he’s not allowed to cut it loose often, so he needs to really improve at what Smith and the Steelers ask him to do. It’s a huge area of weakness for the Steelers, and it’s plain as day that Berry is the lowest ranked starter for Pittsburgh.
Berry did close the 2019 season strong, so hopefully he can build off of that stretch.
No. 23 — Chris Boswell, K
Just last season Boswell came into the year ranked No. 17 in my series, and that was after kicking the Steelers to at least four wins.
One year later, Boswell really struggled, resulting in a number of missed field goals and extra points, costing the Steelers a handful of games in a year in which they missed the playoffs by just one game.
I still believe in Boswell; truly. He has a big leg and has the track record of coming through in big spots, but it’s really hard to get over last season’s debacle in the kicking game.
He’s fighting for his roster spot, and so far he’s gotten off to a strong start in training camp.
Let’s hope that can carry over into the regular season.
No. 22 — James Washington, WR
Washington’s rookie season was a frustrating one for many involved, including the Oklahoma State product himself. Fortunately for Washington, after a backbreaking drop in Denver, and a public callout from his veteran quarterback, he responded in a big way down the stretch, making a number of plays for the Steelers in their push for the playoffs.
Now that an up-and-down rookie season is behind him, Washington appears primed to break out in 2019.
We should see a better deep threat this season as Washington appears leaner and faster in camp. That’s good news for the Steelers. His confidence seems to be sky-high too, so that bodes well for Pittsburgh moving forward.
If the Steelers can tap into the player Washington showed in the preseason and down the stretch last season, Pittsburgh could have a special one on their hands once again.