The Pittsburgh Steelers went 12-4 last season and won their division. They had plenty of representation in the Pro Bowl. But they also lost more than half a dozen starters from that roster, and had little means to replace those parts in free agency, relying upon internal growth and drafting.
There’s no question that they enter training camp with some legitimate holes in their roster, with depth lacking at outside linebacker, for example, and safety. There are major question marks in the starting lineup at cornerback and along the offensive line. Until we know more, a healthy degree of skepticism is fair.
That’s why I doubt there will be many a batted eye in response to Pro Football Focus ranking the Steelers’ roster 16th in the league, in a recent assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the rosters of every team in the league, published on Thursday.
As has been the case for many years now, Pittsburgh’s greatest strength on the team is its pass rush, led by T.J. Watt. That is what PFF highlighted, as well. Citing a league-leading pressure rate of 45.1%, they were also the only team in the league with multiple players generating 60 or more pressures, with Watt, Stephon Tuitt, and Cameron Heyward. Bud Dupree would have as well, had he not gotten injured.
That front four has caused havoc for opposing offensive lines for years now. The concern is that opponents will do the same to their offensive line this year. That was cited as the Steelers’ biggest weakness, to nobody’s surprise. Noting that Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, and Zach Banner have combined to log 248 career snaps at the positions they’re projected to start at this year, there is reason for skepticism here, to put it mildly. But there is potential.
The piece also cites fifth-year cornerback Cameron Sutton as the X-factor this season, as he steps into a full-time starting role following the losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton in the secondary. Sutton was the Steelers’ dime defender last year, but he started seven games, at both left and right cornerback and in the slot.
Meanwhile, in the eyes of PFF, Pittsburgh must contend with two of the strongest rosters in the league, as the Cleveland Browns were ranked third, and the Baltimore Ravens fifth. Cleveland was credited for its rebuilt offensive line, and Baltimore for the depth and strength of the cornerback position, though each was knocked for the inside linebackers and pass rushers, respectively.
But who knows what it all looks like a year from now? We could be talking about Dotson, Alex Highsmith, Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, James Pierre, Antoine Brooks Jr., and others as being part of one of the deepest rosters in the league. They just have to go out and prove it.