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How different is the Steelers 53-man roster compared to last year?

Breaking down what is different between the Steelers rosters for 2020 and 2021.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers came up short of their ultimate goal of a Super Bowl title. Despite this, the Steelers had their greatest start to a season in franchise history winning 11 straight games to start the year. So a rebuild wasn't the main goal of the offseason, but instead a retool was on the horizon. Below are the final 53-man roster of the 2020 season (plus some IR players) and the Steelers current 53-man roster. It’s up to you to decide if this year’s version of the team is an upgraded squad from a year ago.

Quarterbacks

2020: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
2021: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins (Josh Dobbs IR)

This is basically the same exact group as last year; however, Ben Roethlisberger isn't rehabbing an elbow injury, and Dwayne Haskins has joined the team. Overall the position should be better the last year.


Running Backs

2020: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland, Derek Watt (Trey (Edmunds IR)
2021: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Derek Watt (Anthony McFarland IR)

Basically this comes down to whether you you think Najee Harris will be better than James Conner. The vast majority of Steelers fans and really NFL fans will tell you exactly that. The Alabama rusher puts the Steelers over the top, and improves the group ten fold.


Receivers

2020: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
2021: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud

It’s the same exact group... But I will say they will have another year of experience with Ben Roethlisberger and a much better offensive coordinator in Matt Canada. They should be better than last year.


Tight Ends

2020: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Kevin Rader (Zach Gentry IR)
2021: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

This position group takes a massive step forward with the addition of rookie phenom, Pat Freiermuth. The rookie has ripped up training camp and is getting comparisons to Heath Miller from the one and only Ben Roethlisberger. Zach Gentry is also much improved from his first few seasons in the league. Plus, the lightened load on Eric Ebron should make him an even better player. This group is also better the season.


Offensive Line

2020: Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Jerald Hawkins, J. C. Hassenauer, Danny Isidora (Zach Banner IR)
2021: Dan Moore Jr, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, Chuks Okorafor, Joe Haeg, BJ Finney, Rashaard Coward (Zach Banner IR)

This is a completely revamped unit and if it wasn't for nagging injuries to Zach Banner the Steelers would have a different starter at every position from the 2020 playoffs to now. The Steelers had to fix their line and chose to replace everybody. But the question remains if they're a better unit? One things for certain they have a better and more aggressive coach. Hopefully that bleeds onto the field.


Defensive Line

2020: Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt, Henry Mondeaux, Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley
2021: Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk (Stephon Tuitt IR)

Much like the wide receivers, this position is nearly identical except for the addition of Isaiahh Loudermilk and Stephon Tuitt starting the year on injured reserve. While Tuitt’s injury will be noticeable, the Steelers defensive line will still be the strength of the team. The 2021 season will be another dominating year for this unit.


Linebackers

2020: (Inside) Avery Williamson, Vince Williams, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen (Devin Bush, Ulysses Gilbert III IR) (Edge) Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt, Cassius Marsh, Ola Adeniyi, Jayrone Elliott (Bud Dupree IR)
2021: (Inside) Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III (Edge) T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Jamir Jones

The middle of the Steelers defense will see a massive upgrade from the end of the 2020 season. Going from below average play to having two Pro Bowl level players at inside backer will change everything. On the edge, losing Bud Dupree stinks, but the Steelers weren't even able to use him at the end of last season. Watt, Highsmith, and Ingram will be a dominating trio of edge rushers.


Defensive backs

2020: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Steven Nelson, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Antoine Brooks, Jordan Dangerfield, Sean Davis, James Pierre
2021: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Joe Haden, James Pierre, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Karl Joseph, Miles Killebrew, Arthur Maulet, Tre Norwood, Ahkello Witherspoon

The Steelers are definitely taking a small step backward in the secondary. While rumors remain they still plan on adding to the position group, which they did, until it’s all said and done we must recognize the sheer number of losses. Two starters and a number of depth pieces are gone, and the Steelers are banking on a number of old faces to step up. Hopefully the gamble pays off, or the addition of Witherspoon fills all the needs.


Specialists

2020: Jordan Berry, Chris Boswell, Kam Canaday
2021: Pressley Harvin III, Chris Boswell, Christian Kuntz

Another near tear down, the Steelers were able to mine a great rookie punter out of the draft, and they were able to cut costs bringing in a new long snapper. Hopefully the operation allows Chris Boswell to remain on his consistent track, and remain as one of the league’s top kickers.


But what do you think? Did the Steelers do enough to upgrade the team? Is the roster better than it was last year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.