The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up to enter the 2021 campaign fresh off of one of the strangest seasons in franchise history.

The Steelers began the 2020 regular season with a perfect 11-0 record while going on to win the AFC North division. However, they concluded the campaign by losing four of the team’s final five regular season games.

Adding to the forgettable ending to the team’s campaign, the Steelers lost its final two games at the hands of the Browns–including the 48-37 defeat at the hands in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs.

Now, the Steelers will be looking to rebound with another season of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who struggled mightily at times in 2020. However, Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh will be playing in one of the tougher divisions in all of football this time around, as the aforementioned Browns, arch rival Baltimore Ravens and upstart Cincinnati Bengals will at the very least be a thorn in their side.

Both the Browns and Ravens are slated to finish ahead of the Steelers according to most projections, while the Bengals could impress a few folks thanks to the team’s up-and-coming roster of young talent.

As a result, the Steelers will need to bring their “A game” from the jump in 2021 or else find themselves with a losing record for the first time since 2003. Longtime head coach Mike Tomlin has never led his team to a losing record and he sure isn’t looking to do so now either.

2. J.C. Hassenauer, C / Kendrick Green, C

As it stands today, with the 2021 preseason barely underway, the Steelers have J.C. Hassenauer slotted in as the team’s starting center with rookie offensive lineman Kendrick Green currently serving as his primary backup. However, this arrangement could very well change in a hurry as Green has widely been considered one of the better mid-round picks from this year’s NFL Draft.

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Not only that, but the 22-year-old center out of the University of Illinois started up the middle for the Steelers during the team’s recent appearance in the Hall of Fame Game against the heralded Dallas Cowboys.

Green was originally selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft after a standout career for the Fighting Illini. Standing at 6’4″ while weighing north of 315 pounds, the newcomer no doubt has the ability to make an immediate impact.

On the other hand, Hassenauer played four collegiate seasons at the famed University of Alabama before signing with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in April 2018. He was then waived by the Falcons in September and promptly joined the team’s practice shortly thereafter. He has remained in Pittsburgh in some form since 2019 while most recently inking a one-year contract extension to remain with the franchise in March 2021.

1. Alex Highsmith, OLB / Melvin Ingram III, OLB

The Steelers presently have outside linebacker Alex Highsmith starting alongside All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt. However, the team just recently signed former Los Angeles Chargers standout outside linebacker Melvin Ingram III to a free agent contract, which may very well put Highsmith’s starting spot in jeopardy.

With Ingram III just joining the team, it appears as though both he and Highsmith will be battling it out throughout the preseason for the right to serve as the franchise’s Week 1 starter at outside linebacker.

The 23-year-old Highsmith was originally selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of the University of Charlotte. Appearing in all 16 regular season games as a rookie last season, the 6’4,” 240-pounder tallied 48 total tackles, two sacks, one pass defense and one interception.

The 32-year-old Ingram has previously spent his entire nine-year NFL playing career as a member of the Chargers, with the AFC West franchise originally selecting him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of the University of South Carolina.

Regularly encountering some injury trouble throughout his time with the Chargers, Ingram appeared in just seven games in what would ultimately become his final go-round in Los Angeles in 2020. For his career, the veteran pass rusher has recorded 360 total tackles, 49 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, three picks and 28pass defenses over the course of 113 regular season games.