Finally, the last weekend without actual Pittsburgh Steelers’ football has arrived.
With that, the end of a long offseason full of changes and uncertain is nearly behind us. That means the season of lists, rankings, silly online accolades and more is almost over.
In my best Lee Corso voice though: Not so fast, my friends!
We still have some series here at Steelers Depot to wrap up, including the one you clicked on today, Ranking the Steelers’ Starters.
As I dive further and further into this series, I am finding it much, much harder to figure out how to rank the projected starters for the black and gold ahead of the 2022 season. I believe the Steelers got better in the offseason and added a lot of talent. That’s making it challenging to flush it all out.
Before we dive further into my rankings, I wanted to lay out my projected starters for the season as we draw nearer to Steelers’ Training Camp. Below, I went with 11 personnel and a three-receiver set offensively, while going with the Steelers’ sub-package defense.
If a name is in italics, it means they’ve appeared on the list to day. You’ll see 12 names below already in italics.
QB — Mitch Trubisky
RB — Najee Harris
WR — George Pickens
WR – Diontae Johnson
WR – Chase Claypool
TE — Pat Freiermuth
LT — Dan Moore Jr.
LG — Kevin Dotson
C — Mason Cole
RG — James Daniels
RT – Chukwuma Okorafor
DE — Cameron Heyward
DE — Tyson Alualu
OLB — Alex Highsmith
ILB — Devin Bush
ILB — Myles Jack
OLB — TJ Watt
CB — Ahkello Witherspoon
CB — Cameron Sutton
CB – Levi Wallace
S — Minkah Fitzpatrick
S — Terrell Edmunds
K – Chris Boswell
P — Pressley Harvin III
Last note before we dive in here: here’s how the list started out this season:
- No. 24 — Pressley Harvin III, P
- No. 23 — Devin Bush, ILB
- No. 22 — Dan Moore Jr., LT
- No. 21 — Mason Cole, C
- No. 20 — George Pickens, WR
- No. 19 — Chukwuma Okorafor, RT
- No. 18 — Kevin Dotson, LG
- No. 17 — Mitch Trubisky, QB
- No. 16 — Cameron Sutton, CB
- No. 15 — Levi Wallace, CB
- No. 14 — Terrell Edmunds, S
- No. 13 — Tyson Alualu, iDL
No. 12 — Myles Jack, LB
If Myles Jack had joined the Steelers a few seasons ago, he’d be much higher on this list. Unfortunately, he’s coming into Pittsburgh coming off a rather down year in Jacksonville, raising questions about the health of his knees and the ability to play at a high level once again.
That said, I still think Jack has some great football left in him this point in his career, and the Steelers are going to benefit from it in the big way with him next to Devin Bush in the middle of the Steelers’ defense. He’s a good downhill defender against the run that can pack some punch at the point of attack, and can help out in pass overage overall.
He’ll be most impactful as a blitzer though from the BUCK linebacker role, assuming that’s where he settles in the black and gold. Jack was a heady signing by the Steelers and could stabilize the middle of the Steelers’ defense for the next few seasons at a discount rate.
No. 11 — Ahkello Witherspoon, CB
Many readers will probably think this is too high, and I certainly understand that line of thinking. I was rather skeptical coming out of the 2021 season regarding Witherspoon’s play down the stretch. The more I watched of the All-22 film though, the more I believe that his high-level of play is sustainable moving forward in Pittsburgh’s system.
Make no mistake about it: Witherspoon played like a lockdown, true No. 1 cornerback in the black and gold once he worked his way into the lineup, completely taking away the opponent’s No. 1 option late in the season as the Steeles made a push for the playoffs. Now, he’s going to compete with Cameron Sutton and Levi Wallace for the full-time top spot on the Steelers roster in the secondary.
Based on how he played down the stretch, I have full confidence in Witherspoon grabbing that role and running with it. He’s got all the traits necessary to be a good at the position, though he does leave a bit to be desired as a tackler.
No. 10 — Chase Claypool, WR
Despite a rather difficult second season in the NFL with the Steelers, Claypool stays right at No. 10 overall ahead of his third season in the NFL. Though he saw a sharp decline in touchdowns in 2021, Claypool still put up very similar receiving numbers last year compared to his rookie breakout, which is rather encouraging overall.
Consider that he also left a number of plays on the field on deep shots due to inconsistent hands or the inability to stay on his feet, and there’s some hope for a major bounce back in 2022 with a new quarterback and a playbook that’s going to be opened up under Matt Canada. Claypool has come out and called himself a top 3 receiver in the NFL; now, it’s time to play like it for the Steelers.