The Pittsburgh Steelers played some great offensive football during stretches of the past decade, even if they didn’t achieve a great deal of tangible success to show for it in terms of playoff victories, let alone trophies. The offensive line was critical to that success, but they also truly had superstars at the skill positions and under center.
The ‘Killer Bs’ of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown represented some of the best players at their respective positions in the league, and they topped many lists, or came near it, for the best ‘triplets’ in the league.
The 2021 Steelers are far from it, or so it seems. Jared Dubin of CBS Sports recently put together a list of triplets this year, and Pittsburgh’s skill players ranked in the bottom half of the league, ultimately ranked 21st, and represented by Roethlisberger, running back Najee Harris, and wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
There’s an argument to be made that Chase Claypool or JuJu Smith-Schuster should be listed as the pass-catcher here, but the relentlessness with which Roethlisberger targeted Johnson last season nudged us in his direction. It was tough to tell whether his inefficiency was a result of his own talent or Roethlisberger’s seeming inability or unwillingness to throw the ball downfield, but either way, it was not encouraging. Harris, meanwhile, is a terrific talent, but running behind a dramatically worse offensive line than what we’ve gotten used to seeing in Pittsburgh over the years.
It’s certainly up for debate as to whether or not Johnson is the most representative wide receiver for this discussion, even if he was the most-heavily targeted on the team last year. But both Smith-Schuster and Claypool also received more than 100 targets, and it’s reasonable to believe that either one of them could be targeted more this year.
Dubin ranked every single team in the AFC North ahead of the Steelers in this measure, though the highest was the Baltimore Ravens at nine with quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back J.K. Dobbins, and tight end Mark Andrews.
The Cleveland Browns were ranked just outside of the top 10 at 11th overall, with quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Even the Cincinnati Bengals came ahead of the Steelers with quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Joe Mixon, and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, ranked 14th.