The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season could be either a boom or a bust, and anyone who tells you it will certainly be one or the other doesn’t truly grasp this upcoming season. There can be a case made for this team to be extremely competitive, and a playoff team. Likewise, there can be a case made for this team to be mediocre at best and to miss the postseason.
It literally could go either way, and it will make for some stressful, yet entertaining, television this fall. When you look at the season, there are individual players who could both step up, or fall flat. I created a list of players who will surprise and disappoint for my Friday “Let’s Ride” podcast, and decided to share the list on the editorial side too.
For clarification purposes, understand I am not suggesting these players will certainly surprise/disappoint, but are on my radar for specific reasons. The list isn’t in any particular order, and rookies were left off the list.
The 3rd year CB out of Michigan State finds himself in a perfect situation. Steven Nelson gets released, and suddenly the team has a gaping hole ready to be filled at outside cornerback. Too bad we haven’t heard a peep about Layne outside of his off-field issues this offseason. During Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and Mandatory Minicamp, it was James Pierre getting all the attention. Not so much for Layne. You have to think if Layne can’t find a way on the field, outside of special teams, in 2021, he might be the latest player to be a mid-round bust at the position.
I hated to put Washington on the list, but I just don’t see big things from him this season. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have potential, and it doesn’t mean he hasn’t produced in the past, but I just don’t see him being the wide receiver many fans are hoping for. It is a numbers game. When you have Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and even Eric Ebron ahead of you on the pass catching depth chart, it is tough to make an impact. Barring injury, I don’t see Washington having a clear cut role in the final year of his rookie contract.
Whenever someone talks about Jaylen Samuels they always bring up that ONE game vs. the New England Patriots. You know, the 2018 game when he rushed for 142 yards. It was memorable, but what has he done since? Not much. Throw drafting Najee Harris into the mix and you wonder if Samuels will even make the team. Despite his connection with Canada from their N.C. State days, I don’t see Samuels doing much of anything even if he does make the team.
Ulysees Gilbert III
There comes a point when you just give up on a player. UG3 was someone Steelers fans were brimming with excitement about. The thought of his athleticism and speed being just what the team needed on the inside of the defense. Another sideline to sideline linebacker is never a bad thing to have; however, Gilbert just can’t stay healthy. The team has kept him on the roster for a reason, likely his potential, but I’ve put this player on the back burner considering I am always expecting another injury to derail what could be a promising season/career.
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Similar to Washington, I hope I am wrong with this player. I have to keep reminding myself Brooks was a 6th round pick for a reason, and while he has been talked about a lot as a potential replacement for Mike Hilton, but I then remember he didn’t make the team last season. He was cut, signed to the practice squad and eventually was promoted to the active roster. He could make the team, and make an impact, but it won’t be guaranteed.
Honorable Mention: Ray-Ray McCloud
It seemed as if McCloud’s game became predictable both on special teams and offense last season. Is this a reflection of Danny Smith/Randy Fichtner? Only time will tell. Hope McCloud proves me wrong.
To hear more on this topic, check out my “Let’s Ride” podcast where I outline this topic more! Listen below:
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.