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Ranking the Starters: No. 21-19

Training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers is right around the corner, and the overall roster takes shape ahead of the 2021 season.

As we move deeper into the offseason schedule, I move further along in my Ranking the Starters series here at Steelers Depot. In case you missed the 2021 debut of the series on Saturday, here it is in all its glory.

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

Before 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, RT 

I really bought into the Zach Banner hype last training camp and it was a shame to see his season cut short after 59 snaps due to a torn ACL against the New York Giants in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

Banner has completely remade his body and fits exactly what the Steelers are looking for up front when it comes to power and aggression in the run game. His hard work and development saw him win the starting job and ultimately secure a new contract with the Steelers.

He’s the veteran face of the Steelers’ offensive line at this point, thanks to his experience with the Steelers, though Trai Turner is the elder statesman overall.

If Banner is able to regain his form he showed in training camp and early in Week 1, the Steelers will be solid at right tackle for the next two years.

No. 20 — Kendrick Green, OC

Should rookie center Kendrick Green develop into the center the Steelers are hoping for, Green will take a substantial step forward in this ranking ahead of the 2022 season.

Though I still believe he’s undersized overall for the position, he brings the necessary athleticism and mentality to the position, which the Steelers hope rubs off on the other young linemen in the group.

Clearly I am projecting Green to beat out J.C. Hassenauer and B.J. Finney, which should help solidify the interior of the offensive line overall. With a projection of Kevin Dotson, Green and Turner inside, I like that group coming off the ball and moving bodies in the run game.

Green certainly wasn’t my top choice for the Steelers at center in the draft, but I’ve slowly come around on him the more film I watch. The concerns with height and length remains though.

No. 19 — Robert Spillane, iLB 

I like Spillane over Vince Williams for the starting inside linebacker job, which should help solidify depth and experience for the Steelers behind Spillane and Devin Bush.

Spillane was forced into action in 2020 due to injury and showed he could handle the position as a starter, finishing the year with 45 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four tackles for loss, one interception and one touchdown. Though he was injured down the stretch and returned at less than 100% in the AFC Wild Card game, Spillane could allow the Steelers to do a bit more in coverage next season as Bush works his way back from ACL surgery early in the year.

He’s a sound tackler, underrated blitzer and is a smart football player overall, which showed right away on film once he was inserted into the lineup. He’s not the sexiest name on the defense, but he’s super underrated and could see his name blow up in 2021 next to Bush.

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