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Ranking the Starters: No. 12-10

The first full weekend of Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 training camp is nearly over as I move further into my Ranking the Starters series here at Steelers Depot.

Though actual football is here and ready to be talked about, it’s still fun for me to continue to push on in the offseason rankings, which I’ll do here today, ranking the Steelers’ starters No. 12-10.

Just as a reminder, here’s how the 2020 rankings went ahead of the 2020 season.

As we continue, I’ll give you a brief rundown of names to expect in this series as I make my starters projections. Those names italicized are already in the rankings to start the series.

Offense

QB — Ben Roethlisberger
RB — Najee Harris
WR — JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR – Diontae Johnson
WR – Chase Claypool
TE — Eric Ebron
LT — Chukwuma Okorafor
LG — Kevin Dotson
C — Kendrick Green
RG — Trai Turner
RT – Zach Banner

Defense

DE — Cameron Heyward
DE — Stephon Tuitt
OLB — Alex Highsmith
ILB — Devin Bush

ILB — Robert Spillane
OLB — TJ Watt
CB — Joe Haden
CB — Cameron Sutton

CB – James Pierre
S — Minkah Fitzpatrick
S — Terrell Edmunds

Specialists

K – Chris Boswell
P — Jordan Berry

Last note before we dive in here: here’s how the list started out this season:

  • No. 24 — Jordan Berry
  • No. 23 — James Pierre
  • No. 22 — Chukwuma Okorafor
  • No. 21 — Zach Banner
  • No. 20 — Kendrick Green
  • No. 19 — Robert Spillane
  • No. 18 — Trai Turner
  • No. 17 — Kevin Dotson
  • No. 16 — Eric Ebron
  • No. 15 — Alex Highsmith
  • No. 14 — Chris Boswell
  • No. 13 — Cameron Sutton

No. 12 — Terrell Edmunds, S

Last season I was so down on Terrell Edmunds as a starter for the Steelers, ranking him No. 22 in the Steelers’ starters series. After a good 2020 season that saw him put together the best season of his career to date, I have him jumping 10 spots in the rankings to No. 12 overall.

That might be a bit high for some readers, and that’s understandable, but he’s a solid starting safety in today’s game, especially in the box. While the Steelers did not pick up his fifth-year option ahead of the 2021 season, Edmunds remains a key starter for the Steelers’ defense, which looks to continue its elite level of play.

Though Edmunds struggles to create turnovers as a box safety, he posted a career high in interceptions and passes defensed, showing he continues to improve in the NFL.

In a contract year, don’t be surprised to see Edmunds take another leap forward.

No. 11 — Najee Harris, RB

Right away Najee Harris becomes one of the best Steelers starters on the roster. A 2021 first-round draft pick, Harris is the full package at running back and should spark the Steelers’ run game this fall, one year after the Steelers were the 32nd-ranked rushing attack in football.

Harris reminds me a ton of former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who was an exceptional dual threat running back that could handle a heavy workload. Harris is built similarly and possesses the same skillset, which gives the Steelers an elite-caliber weapon to build around in the backfield as the Steelers undoubtedly transition to a new style in the coming years.

There’s truly no other Steeler I’m excited to watch in 2021 more than Harris.

No. 10 — Chase Claypool, WR 

If Harris is looking to make a substantial impact in 2021 as a rookie, he can take quite a bit away from receiver Chase Claypool. Claypool burst onto the scene in 2020 and looks like a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver candidate in Pittsburgh moving forward.

A big, fast, physical receiver, Claypool is a matchup nightmare for defenses, and the Steelers took advantage of that in 2020. He gives the Steelers options as a deep threat as well as a slot option moving forward, and thrives in the run game as a blocker and runner on jet sweeps.

He needs to clean up some of the inefficiencies when it comes to winning down the field on contested catches, but he’s a master at drawing pass interference penalties and should take another step forward in Matt Canada’s offense, now that he’s comfortable and confident in Pittsburgh entering his second season.

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