Kevin Colbert has done a brilliant job filling out the Steelers roster this off-season. With very little money to spend, he has managed to fill some major holes on this team. Having said that, there are still a handful of Steelers concerns to deal with. Here are the top five most pressing issues for this team heading into the 2021 season:
1. Offensive Line:
We have been banging the drum on this concern since day one this off-season. Will the Steelers offensive line be their undoing in 2021? After training camp and three preseason games, we don’t feel much better about this group. Kendrick Green looks overwhelmed at times. This should come as no surprise from a rookie who didn’t play center much in college. Both tackles have been limited due to injuries all preseason. And then there’s always the looming injury concerns that come with a player like Trai Turner. One good sign is that guard Kevin Dotson has shook off some of the early worries, and looks to be a dominant lineman for years to come. Overall it will be a minor miracle if this group stays healthy, and affective for the entire 2021 season.
Let’s begin with the starters. Joe Haden is a 32 year old corner, and Cam Sutton will be a full time starter for the first time in his career. That alone is quite a scary proposition. The nickel package consists of moving Sutton to the slot, and bringing on the unheralded James Pierre to play outside. This is a significant downgrade to the Haden, Stevens, Hilton trio this team had last year.
The rest of this group is unimpressive to say the least. Former third round pick Justin Layne continues to disappoint. This is the time he should be pushing for the starting corner slot. Instead he seems to be fighting just to stay on the roster. Veteran Arthur Maulet sustained what appears to be a serous ankle injury in the last preseason game further weakening this position. It seems a forgone conclusion that Kevin Colbert will add another corner before the final 53 man roster is set.
In a list of Steelers concerns, this one is becoming a major one. In the last week alone this team has cut Antoine Brooks Jr., and had the the previously mentioned injury to Maulet. The secondary is so thin Maulet was not only the team’s primary backup at corner, he was also pretty much the only other player on the roster capable of playing free safety other than Minkah Fitzpatrick. Miles Killebrew was signed for his special teams value, not his safety play. That leaves just seventh round pick Trey Norwood and some undrafted rookies as the only depth at this position. It is almost a must that Kevin Colbert sign at least one safety before the season starts.
4. TJ Watt:
We are over three quarters of the way through the 2021 preseason, and TJ Watt has not participated in a single practice, or game thus far. https://patch.com/pennsylvania/pittsburgh/report-pittsburgh-steelers-lb-t-j-watt-expected-sign-massive-contract Nobody doubts this deal will eventually get done, and nobody doubts the talent once Watt gets on the field. The concern about this player picking up an injury due to lack of game shape is a serious one however. Not having any real conditioning in a team setting can be a problem once the season starts. Fingers will be crossed Watt can make it through the first two or three games unscathed.
It is not an overstatement to say the entire season hangs on the health of a 39 year old quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger staying healthy is the one thing this team absolutely must have in order for this season to be successful. You can say that about every team’s starting quarterback of course. But not every team has a starter who is nearly 40, and is just one year removed from major arm surgery. Then there’s the new offense of Matt Canada that Big Ben must get used to. So far all indications are that this is going well for both parties. The key again comes down to the health and play of Ben Roethlisberger. Without a stellar season from him, none of the other concerns will even matter.