In the last installment of the Ranking the Starters series for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I took a look at No. 24-22, which can be found here. Really, there shouldn’t have been any surprises in that initial open to the series, so now it’s time to move on to No. 21-19 in the Ranking the Starters series here at Steelers Depot.
For clarity’s sake, we’ll run down the 24 starters, which include kicker and punter, but not long snapper or returners. Offensively, I’m going to rank the starters based on a three-wide set, with one tight end, meaning no fullback (sorry Rosie Nix fans). Defensively, I’m going to roll with the Steelers’ 3-4 defense, even though they run their nickel package much more than the actual 3-4 defense. So that means no Mike Hilton in this list.
Additionally, this list is based off my own personal rankings regarding skills, not value to the team like I did two years ago.
You can refer to the hyperlink above for a quick glimpse at what names to expect in this list.
For fun, here’s how last season’s rankings went from No. 21-19:
No. 21 — Jesse James, TE
No. 20 — Artie Burns, CB
No. 19 — Vince Williams, ILB
Here we go.
No. 21 — Terrell Edmunds, S
I’m still exceptionally high on Terrell Edmunds as a key cog in the Steelers’ defense moving forward, but I just need to see more.
Last season, Edmunds played way more snaps than the Steelers anticipated. Fortunately for him, he received some great exposure early on and came through the other side better for it. He’s a terrific athlete and certainly looks the part, so now it’s time to really put it all together in Year 2 for the Virginia Tech product.
I just want to see more splash and more wow out of the former first round pick. The Steelers desperately need some playmaking in the back half of the defense, and he certainly looks like a guy who can help in that regard. It’s time to see it.
No. 20 — Steven Nelson, CB
Pittsburgh wasn’t shy about giving him the biggest free agent contract in franchise history, but was it the right call?
Last season in Kansas City, Nelson really struggled at times as opposing quarterbacks took shots on him down the field and really took advantage at times with his struggles to stay engaged, leading to big plays and flags.
Fortunately for Nelson, it appears that he’s sliding into a better defense and scheme, which should aide him right away. He has a ton of talent around him, and is in a place that wants him to be a key piece, whereas Kansas City jettisoned him as quickly as possible in free agency.
He received the big contract, so now it’s time to step up opposite Joe Haden. Should Nelson be what the Steelers expect him to be at corner, it could be a lucrative year for the black and gold.
No. 19 — Matt Feiler, RT
I love the story that is Matt Feiler, and I was really pleased with the way he played last season in place of Marcus Gilbert, but we’re kidding ourselves as fans and analysts if we think Feiler is a high-end starter on this team.
I mean no disrespect to the former undrafted free agent out of Bloomsburg University. I’m simply stating that I think he’s a lower tier starter on the Steelers.
Feiler really excelled last season in the run game and more than held his own as a pass blocker against top tier opponents throughout his time in the starting lineup. Now, after the Steelers traded Gilbert to Arizona, it looks as though Feiler is the starter at right tackle.
Pittsburgh has done a great job finding undrafted talent along the offensive line in recent years, and Feiler just adds to that list. I’m just curious to watch how he handles being a starter full-time now, especially with defensive coordinators and opponents have extended film on him.