Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Kalen Ballage
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Scant reports from OTAs and minicamp have indicated at the very least that free agent running back Kalen Ballage has acquitted himself well to onlookers as he makes a bid for a roster spot later this year.
It is not uncommon that we have very little to work from when it comes to spring workouts, but a little feels like an avalanche compared to last year, when there were none. As the Steelers figure out how to improve their running game, though, they are also exploring new personnel.
The headliner is rookie first-round draft pick Najee Harris, but they also signed Kalen Ballage, a veteran running back, in free agency, and he will try to knock off one of the Steelers’ incumbent backs from the roster through training camp and the preseason.
While James Conner is now gone, Harris supplanting him as the featured back, and Pittsburgh still retains Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, and Anthony McFarland from last year’s roster. At least one of those players would have to lose their place on the 53-man roster in order for Ballage to make it.
But it is doable, and Ballage isn’t off to a bad start, which shouldn’t be unexpected. A veteran running back should be able to look the part in shorts, after all. Noah Strackbein, for example, highlighted him as one player who stood out during OTAs, suggesting that the final of four spots is his right now, supplanting Samuels.
Samuels, entering his fourth season, is probably the unanimous most vulnerable veteran. I would imagine that most who follow such things have already written him off of the roster. He had just 18 touches a year ago for 74 yards, including nine receptions for just 46 yards.