The Pittsburgh Steelers will call on their rookies in 2021 unlike they ever have before in the Mike Tomlin era. With holes on the roster and primary backup positions to be won, the first year players will have opportunities they would not normally receive. Not only will more rookies start in Week 1 than what we’re used to, their is a very real chance more than four 2021 NFL Draft picks will be in the starting lineup come Week 18. Below are my predictions of what Steelers rookies roles will be by the final week of the regular season, injuries will not be considered.
Najee Harris - Starter
No need to spend much time on this one, Najee Harris will be the Steelers’ bell cow running back from the moment the first whistle blows at training camp. This is the guy in the backfield and he will be the guy for the foreseeable future.
Pat Freiermuth - Starter
As Pat Freiermuth gets more comfortable in Matt Canada’s system and catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger he will eat into Eric Ebron’s snap counts. This process will be sped up drastically if Ebron struggles to hang onto the ball, and if Matt Canada wants his tight ends to put their hands in the grass and block. Freiermuth is honestly the best pure tight end on the Steelers roster and I wouldn't be surprised to see Eric Ebron play more of a receiver type role which he did a lot of in 2020.
Kendrick Green - Starter
If Kendrick Green isn't the starter by the Week 7 bye, something horrible, or unpredictable, has happened. The other centers on the Steelers roster are simply not good enough and are even teetering on the edge of falling out of the league altogether. Green is both the most aggressive and athletic center the Steelers have and fits what Matt Canada will be trying to do better than any other option. He has a shot at being the starting Center come Week 1, and it would honestly be a little disappointing if he wasn’t.
Dan Moore Jr. - Backup
Dan Moore Jr. was brought in as a guy with all the size, and skill, but in need of getting his technique coached up. Putting him on the field in 2021 may even stunt his development. Of any of the Steelers draft picks it is Moore who would need the ‘redshirt’ year the most. This doesn't mean he's a bad pick, but he will need some time to be NFL ready.
Buddy Johnson - Primary backup
Buddy Johnson has the skillset that blends perfectly with Devin Bush. He will be the guy starting beside him at some point, but whether it’s this year or two years from now is yet to be seen. His aggressiveness against the run and leadership qualities are everything the Steelers look for in their buck linebacker. He might be a guy that comes off the field on passing downs, but his impact will be felt. Think a more athletic Vince Williams.
Isaiahh Loudermilk - Backup
Isaiahh Loudermilk received a ton of praise through OTA’s and mini camp. The Steelers also spent a ton of capital to land him. While the defensive line is brimming with talent I do expect him to climb the ranks slowly as the year goes by. He won't be pushing Cam Heyward or Stephon Tuitt off the roster anytime soon but he should receive a helmet on Sundays and play a bit by the end of the year.
Quincy Roche - High snap count backup
Until the Steelers sign another outside linebacker I expect Roche to pass Cassius Marsh on the depth chart. The Steelers need someone to spell T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith throughout games and Roche could very well end up being that guy. That being said, I do think the Steelers will add someone, making Roche a developmental piece and a special teams contributor.
Tre Norwood - High snap count backup
Typically seventh round picks have a hard time making the Steelers roster. But given the reviews of Norwood, and how highly Mike Tomlin spoke about him when he made the draft pick, I think this is a guy to watch out for at camp and as the year goes by. Remember the Steelers drafted Norwood over all those undrafted players, so he has the inside track when it comes to all the newcomers. He could very well push for time in the slot as well as playing a backup role at safety.
Pressley Harvin III - Starter
Much like the Steelers first pick, their last pick should be the guy immediately. Pressley Harvin III just needs to knock off incumbent Jordan Berry for the job and by all means the Steelers have wanted to replace him for years. They should have that guy now and if Harvin III replicates his senior year numbers he’d be one of the best punters in the game in year one.
But what do you think? What roles will the Steelers be playing by the end of the regular season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.