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ESPN Roster Rankings have the Steelers as a middle of the road team in 2021

Some, like the people at ESPN, see the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers as a team in transition...

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At this point on the NFL calendar it becomes painfully clear news is scarce. If news hits the wire at any point you can chalk it up to one of the following events:

  • Contract signed
  • Off field issues
  • Injuries

Outside of those events, media outlets have to create their own news. They have to find a way to keep fans engaged, and the NFL is king at doing just that throughout the longest offseason of any major sport.

Rankings are a great way to get fans’ engaged in football, even with training camps still a month away. Most fans know these rankings are meaningless, but they create discussion and debate among fans of all 32 teams.

Recently, ESPN and Pro Football Focus (PFF) delivered one of their rankings, and it ranked all 32 teams’ rosters heading into the 2021 season. Before we get to the rankings, let’s take a look at the criteria/purpose of these rankings.

With the 2021 draft and free agency behind us, we’re breaking down each team’s roster using the PFF database, with an eye toward the projected starters. We looked at both the PFF grades from the 2020 season — a number included for every projected starter — and a more comprehensive look at each player’s career using both PFF grades and statistics.

Now onto the rankings. I decided to show the full 32 team rankings, instead of the Top 10 and wherever the Steelers are ranked. I wanted you, the reader, to see exactly who these outlets feel are better, and worse, than the Steelers when it comes to roster strength.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Los Angeles Rams
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Denver Broncos
11. San Francisco 49ers
12. Washington Football Team
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Indianapolis Colts
15. Seattle Seahawks

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest strength: There is little doubting that Pittsburgh will once again be able to generate pressure at one of the highest rates in the NFL in 2021. The Steelers led the NFL in team pressure rate last season (45.1%), and they were the only defense in the league that had multiple players generate at least 60 pressures. Each of T.J. Watt (73), Stephon Tuitt (71) and Cameron Heyward (62) reached that threshold. Opposing offenses don’t have enough resources to take all of them out of the game with extra attention.

Biggest weakness: The nicest thing that you can say about the Steelers’ offensive line is that it has potential. Pittsburgh will be relying heavily on inexperience up front. Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green and Zach Banner have played a combined 248 NFL snaps at the positions they’re projected to start the season at. David DeCastro’s recent release following a career-low PFF grade in 2020 and the signing of Trai Turner just add more moving parts for first-year offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. Multiple players will have to develop quickly for this unit not to stand out as a weakness this season.

X factor for 2021: The offseason losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton at cornerback place more pressure on Cameron Sutton to be an integral part of this secondary this season. Sutton has ranked in the 94th percentile among all cornerbacks since 2019 in coverage grade on a per-snap basis, though much of that grade stems from his work in the slot as the fourth cornerback in dime packages. Suddenly, he’s the No. 2 behind Joe Haden and the favorite to start the season on the boundary.

17. New Orleans Saints
18. New England Patriots
19. New York Giants
20. Los Angeles Chargers
21. Arizona Cardinals
22. Miami Dolphins
23. Chicago Bears
24. Cincinnati Bengals
25. Atlanta Falcons
26. Las Vegas Raiders
27. Carolina Panthers
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Philadelphia Eagles
30. New York Jets
31. Detroit Lions
32. Houston Texans

With all of that said, what do you think of the Steelers’ position on the rankings? Are they ranked too high? Not high enough? Do you agree with what was said about the black and gold? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.