Head coach Mike Tomlin will be demanding more from his roster this season as they look to improve on what they achieved in 2020. The Steelers got off to a fantastic start last year but they did not make it count in the post-season as they were beaten by the Cleveland Browns 48-37 in the Wild Card Round. In the off-season, there have been a lot of changes with players departing and new faces arriving. Here is a look at which new players could make the biggest impact on the season.
It was quite clear that the Steelers struggled to run the ball last season. They were at the bottom end of the charts in all the rushing statistics. That forced the organization to draft a running back in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. They will now be hoping Najee Harris can help propel them when it comes to running with the ball.
Harris scored 26 touchdowns and rushed for 1,466 yards last season for Alabama. He went into the draft as the leading running back on most experts’ scout reports. The new Steelers RB looks set to compete for the starting job from game one. James Connor has left for Arizona and competition in the roster is not that strong.
If Harris does have a great rookie season, it is going to take the pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh are +4000 in the sport betting for Super Bowl LVI. Those odds are sure to shorten if they show they have improved when it comes to rushing the ball.
After spells with Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals in 2020, B.J. Finney is back with the Steelers. He could be an important player for Tomlin in 2021. Maurkice Pouncey retired at the end of last season so there is an opportunity on the team for him to be a starter.
Finney knows what will be required in Tomlin’s team. There will be competition for the center position along with rookie Kendrick Green. In the early stages of the season, Finney is likely to be favored for his experience, yet as of late all signs point towards Green. Therefore Finney becomes a top notch reserve.
Big Ben has proved he can still deliver in the NFL if he gets the right protection. The offensive line will need to protect the veteran QB this year. If they prove successful, he should continue to hurt defenses.
Guard Joe Haeg arrives in Pittsburgh as a Super Bowl winner after helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Vince Lombardi Trophy last season. Haeg only started three games in 2020 but he played in 12 total as the Bucs had one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL. The 28-year-old could see more action for his new team in what will be his sixth year in the league.
Pittsburgh’s new offensive lineman is versatile in that he can play in a number of positions across the line. This will prove helpful to Tomlin if injuries add up again just like they have over the last few years.
The Steelers begin their new season at the Buffalo Bills on September 12.
Feature image courtesy post-gazette.com