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Many of the national pundits believe that the Steelers will finish third in the AFC North in 2021, behind the Browns and Ravens. And then there are some writers like Adam Schein of CBS Sports, who believe the Steelers will finish last in the AFC North, behind even the Bengals.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN added more fuel to the fire in a recent article, as he just picked apart the Steelers' roster.
“They were forced to eat their financial vegetables and watch Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton leave in free agency,” Barnwell wrote about Steelers. “With the organization moving on from Steven Nelson, cornerback has gone from being one of the team’s biggest strengths to one of Pittsburgh’s thinnest positions.”
The Nelson departure was a big loss this offseason and unfortunate, so Barnwell is right that the Steelers are thin at the cornerback position. However, Cam Sutton should fill in admirably as the No. 2 cornerback, but the Steelers will need James Pierre and Justin Layne to step up big when they go into their sub-packages in 2021.
Barnwell continued with bashing the Steelers' offensive line, which has been a common theme with a lot of media outlets, as they're skeptical about the offensive line having three new starters.
“The offensive line is also a mess, with the Steelers losing Maurkice Pouncey to retirement and both Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva to free agency,” Barnwell wrote.
The offensive line was horrendous when it came to run blocking last year, which played a big part in why the Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4). So, maybe the offensive line will be better in 2021 with all the changes. It's not like Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva were playing at a Pro Bowl level last year. Matt Feiler was not all that impressive at right guard, either. It should also be mentioned that Adrian Klemm was promoted to offensive line coach this offseason and all reports indicate that he's implementing an aggressive style of play to the young group.
For Barnwell's last critic of the Steelers, he questions their selection of running back Najee Harris in the first round.
“Their decision to try to revitalize the running game by using a first-round pick on Alabama star Najee Harris also seemed curious given what we know about the position,” Barnwell wrote.
Barnwell is one of many analysts who believe the Steelers addressed the running back position too early, but I think they'll be quite surprised with what Harris displays in Year 1. He's a special and rare talent.