The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a disappointing playoff exit after going 12-4 in the regular season. They started the 2020 season 11-0, only to see their lack of run-game doom them.
Pittsburgh addressed the problem in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting running back Najee Harris. Harris should bring balance to the Steelers' offense and become an an elite playmaker in the process.
The Steelers already have two preseason games under their belt, including a 24-16 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Multiple players played well against Philly and improved their chances of making the roster.
With that being said, here are three Steelers battling for roster spots who impressed in the preseason opener vs. Eagles and could very well make a case to be with the team moving forward.
3. Jamir Jones
You may not have heard of Jamir Jones, but he played well against the Eagles. While the undrafted free agent didn't play at all last season, he has shown his improvement in training camp and the preseason thus far.
Jones had a sack in the game as well as a quarterback hit, which resulted in an interception.
He still has work to do, but if Jones keeps this up, he's got a shot at making the roster.
2. Anthony McFarland Jr.
Anthony McFarland proved he could be a solid backup running back with his performance against the Eagles. McFarland had nine carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. Head Coach Mike Tomlin praised McFarland's improvement from last year to this year.
“Last year, he missed some work during the team-development process because of his lack of readiness, which is very common for a young guy,” Tomlin said, per Sports Illustrated. “He's been very available this year, and I think that's just aiding in his growth and development, and I think it's producing the play that you're looking at.”
McFarland isn't a roster lock, but with Benny Snell Jr. down with an injury and his production in the preseason, he should see time on the field this season.
The star of the Steelers' preseason so far has been Dwayne Haskins. The former first-round pick was cut by the Washington Football Team before he was signed by the Steelers. He was the third-string quarterback in the depth chart heading into the game, but his great game may have put him above Mason Rudolph.
Haskins completed 16 of his 22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Like McFarland, Haskins is not a roster lock, but his impressive preseason play could solidify his spot. He could be a reliable option as a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger, especially if he continues to play like he did last Thursday.
Steelers 2021 Season Preview
The preseason has seen some great performances from Steelers players, and they have an exciting season ahead. They are in one of the toughest divisions in the league, as the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Steelers all made the playoffs last season.
The Cincinnati Bengals also appear to be on the rise, and it will be a very competitive season for the Steelers. This could be future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's final season, and the Steelers need to try to win while they can. They are in a tough AFC that includes the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen have led their teams to the Conference Championship last season, and they will be tough for Pittsburgh to compete with.
Pittsburgh's defense was near the top of the league last season, and they will need to rely on slowing down opposing offenses. Offensively, the Steelers need to have a balanced attack compared to the pass-heavy system from last year.
Look for the Steelers to be a competitive team this 2021, even in the stacked AFC.