Great news, Steelers’ fans: in just two weeks we’ll have actual football to talk about.
For now though, we press on in the quiet part of the offseason in the NFL here at Steelers Depot, featuring today’s Ranking The Steelers’ Starters series. In case you missed it, my rankings for No. 24-22 dropped last week here. Today, I’ll take a look at No. 21-19.
Quite honestly, it was pretty hard to settle on three names for this part of the series. One name will likely surprise many, but it was so hard to slot him in with where I felt comfortable overall. More on that later.
n case you missed how last season’s list went, you can find that here. The top three certainly created some discussion.
Before we dive into the first three starters ranked near the bottom in 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 three 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
Now, it’s time to dive into the next installment of my Ranking the Steelers’ Starters series here at Steelers Depot.
No. 21 — Mason Cole, C
I like the fit of Mason Cole in the Steelers’ offense under second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada. I think he’s a much better run blocker than pass protector, and I think he’s a considerable upgrade at the center position compared to what the Steelers had there in 2021, for whatever that’s worth.
That said, Cole still doesn’t move the needle much at the position overall. He’s a sound veteran with positional versatility and comes relatively cheap. He was great against the Steelers in 2021 with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football, but the rest of his season was up and down with him in and out of the lineup at various positions.
He seems like he has good overall leadership qualities and should help solidify a young offensive line overall. But he’s just not a guy you build around on the interior long term. He is what he is at this point, and that’s fine.
No. 20 — George Pickens, WR
This is the selection I was referring to earlier. Some reading this could certainly be scratching their heads remembering that I said he likely would have been the first wide receiver selected in the 2022 NFL Draft if he didn’t tear his ACL. So, knowing I said that, how could I seemingly have him in this slot?
Well, for starters, he hasn’t played a single down of football. His overall role is also still up in the air, so it’s hard to project his overall impact and true fit — at least for 2022.
Still, I think he’s going to eventually be a fantastic receiver in the NFL and will be a major steal for the Steelers for a long, long time. For now though, I slot him in at No. 20 knowing that he’ll most likely climb my rankings next season, assuming health.
No. 19 — Chukwuma Okorafor, RT
I ranked Okorafor at No. 22 last season, so a nice three-slot climb is a good move for Okorafor.
Look, he’s certainly not one of the best right tackles in football. He’s also not one of the worst either, like many fans will try and make others believe. He’s just 24 years old, has played in 2,340 snaps in 46 career games (35 starts).
While he does struggle with overall power as a run blocker, Okorafor is a good athlete overall in space, one that holds up well in pass protection. He’s still just scratching the surface of his potential as an offensive linemen, and now gets the chance to learn under new offensive line coach Pat Meyer.
Realistically, his three-year deal he signed in free agency is a one-year trial run, as the Steelers can get out of the deal rather easily. It’s a big prove-it year for Okorafor, who I thought played well at times in 2021. Still, it says something that so far in this series three of the Steelers’ projected starting five up front are this low in the rankings.