Videos by OutKick
Last year was one of the toughest seasons Pittsburgh Steelers fans have ever had to endure. The team looked like true Super Bowl contenders when they started the year 11-0 — a franchise record — only to lose four of their final five regular season games and then the Wild Card game against the Cleveland Browns.
The team has promised that won’t happen again in 2021, and in an effort to keep that promise, they are already strategizing how to come out victorious in the AFC North against the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.
Training camp has been somewhat quiet for the Steelers, which is just the way that head coach Mike Tomlin and the team like it.
Not having a bullseye on their back is probably a good thing for this franchise as they enter what looks to be the final season of future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
However, several players will be competing for playing time, and there may even be a couple spots up for grabs once the season kicks off in Buffalo on September 12th.
As of now, the starting center spot on offense and the outside linebacker spot for the departed Bud Dupree, who left via free agency to head to Tennessee, are both available.
Let’s look at the center spot, where right now the Steelers have penciled J.C. Hassenauer in as the starter at the moment. If this pencil mark turns into pen, Hassenauer will take over for the retiring Markuice Pouncey, a big loss on the line.
While Hassenauer is listed as the starter for the preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles this week, rookie OL Kendrick Green will also push for playing time.
Green has been working as Hassanuer’s backup this camp but may challenge Hassenauer for the starting spot, if Hassaneur’s play isn’t up to snuff.
There’s also currently a solid battle going on for the outside linebacker spot between Alex Highsmith, now in his second year, and Melvin Ingram III, a free agent pickup from the Los Angeles Chargers.
Highsmith had an impressive first season last year when he took over due to injury. Make no mistake though, Ingram will make an impact when he DOES get the chance at playing time.
Ingram adds solid depth to the team’s defense, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him get plenty of chances over Highsmith early in the year, especially on third down passing situations.
Last season, the 32-year-old Ingram played in seven games for the Chargers, collecting an interception as well as two passes defended.
We shall see where these two positions end up when the season begins, so keep an eye on both the center and OLB spots as the Steelers look to upgrade their roster and turn the 2020 season into a distant memory.