After Tuesday’s practice where Chase Claypool limped off of the field with an injury (that turned out to be minor) I got to thinking which Steelers players can this team not afford to lose during the 2021 season. In 2020 the team fell off of the rails following Bud Dupree’s torn ACL, and the Steelers need to avoid a significant loss like that again this year if they want to win a title.
Quick note, in some cases the Steelers have plenty of depth at a certain position minimizing the loss of a player, this will be taken into account for the players listed here today. Let’s get started.
We have been down this road before, losing Ben Roethlisberger would be like putting a bullet into your own foot. The Steelers flamed out of the 2019 season when this happened once, and in a year where the Steelers are poised for a deep playoff run they certainly can't let it happen again. Could Dwayne Haskins or Mason Rudolph have a surprise season in them? I suppose, but I would be really surprised to say the least.
T.J. Watt is the engine that keeps the Steelers defense running. His physical motor is relentless, and his ability to rush the passer opens up one-on-one matchups across the defensive front. Despite the addition of Melvin Ingram, the Steelers need Watt to be a difference maker in every single game. Especially in a year that Watt could finally be crowned defensive player of the year.
Fitzpatrick changed the Steelers defense when he landed here in 2019, not only that but the Steelers have no reliable pieces behind him either. Fitzpatrick might be the Steelers most clutch player, always around the football in big stages of the game and is a turnover forcing machine. The Steelers are so much better with Fitzpatrick on the field, and opposing quarterbacks try to avoid throwing his way at all costs. You can't replicate that with someone else.
The ageless wonder is still the Steelers best cornerback. The teams defense was considerably worse when Haden was absent from games in 2020, and he will one again reprise his role of top corner here in 2021. The difference though however is there is significantly less depth now than there was a year ago. The Steelers need Haden to be the guy for the duration of the season.
And we end our list with the player that inspired it. Chase Claypool has the biggest superstar potential out of any of the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive players. His role in the offense is expanding, and his chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger has grown. This kid will be the big play driver for the Steelers offense, and considering how he’s being used in practice he may be the Steelers true number one wide out. None of the other Steelers receivers posses the same attributes as Claypool so replacing him would be the toughest task.
Honorable mention: Najee Harris
Harris has the skillset to transform the Steelers rushing attack, and losing him would be felt. But considering the depth at the position, the deep free agent pool, and how you can game plan the offence to throw the ball more they can survive. But you would much prefer to have the rookie in your lineup.
But what do you think? Who else would you add to this list Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.