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3 players the Steelers should build their team around for 2021 and beyond

Pro Football Focus gave their “core 3” players for each NFL team going into the 2021 season. Who were their choices for the Steelers?

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Los Angeles Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The agonizingly long NFL offseason is winding down. After hearing the ongoing lists of best and worst players at every position under the sun, the content has almost reached an end as training camp has almost reached its beginning.

But wait, we’ve got one more.

Pro Football Focus has listed three players for each team who they should build around for the future.

While it’s interesting to see who is listed for all 32 teams, there’s really only one team I care about. So what did PFF use as their criteria for determining the “core three” players for each team?

Here’s a little taste of what went into it:

Production, age and positional value were all considered to put together a three-player core to build around for all 32 NFL teams. Contracts weren’t considered for the purpose of this exercise.

I don’t know if they mean simply how much a player was paid or how much time is remaining on each one’s contract. Regardless, who are the three players the Steelers should be building around for their future success? Without further ado, here they are with explanation:


EDGE T.J. Watt

S Minkah Fitzpatrick

WR Chase Claypool

Watt is in line for a massive second contract in Pittsburgh given his performance over the past two seasons. He joins Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett as the only two edge defenders with a PFF grade better than 90.0 in both 2019 and 2020. Fitzpatrick, like Watt, is also due for a big-time extension soon. His play at free safety is a big reason why the Steelers have allowed just 32 completions on passes 20 or more yards downfield (tied for fewest in NFL) since they traded for him.

The choices on offense come down to preference between Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Claypool with an aging Ben Roethlisberger and makeshift offensive line. Claypool’s ability to challenge defenses vertically, which he showcased as a rookie, gives him the slight edge. Through a combination of receptions and pass interference penalties drawn, Claypool was responsible for 21 gains of 20-plus yards last year (eighth at wide receiver).

Honestly, it’s difficult to argue with his list. One could say perhaps Najee Harris would be one of the players to build around, but he has yet to take a snap for the Steelers so I can see why he was left off. Additionally, the article stated that running backs may not be the most valuable thing they look at:

Josh Jacobs has been one of the best young running backs in the NFL, but does Las Vegas want to build around a position with such a short shelf life?

Do the Steelers have some other players that they could build around? Absolutely. It appears the offensive line might be shaped around young players such as Kevin Dotson. The running back position looks to be in the hands of the aforementioned Najee Harris. There are plenty of other players on defense to be considered for the Steelers, but some of them are getting up there in years. Perhaps a Stefon Tuitt is someone who would be considered, or if a young cornerback emerges in 2021. But going into the 2021 season, the choices of T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Chase Claypool are as good as any.

So how did Pro Football Focus do this time? Do you think they picked the right three? Is there someone else the Steelers should be building around? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.