By Jeremy Hritz
This is the final installment in our Depth Chart analysis series for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers, and it concludes with special teams. Being that special teams are different from your traditional positions on the rosters, this breakdown will look a bit different from the others in this catalog.
While not receiving as much attention as offense and defense, special teams can make or break a game, and in some cases, a season. Bill Cowher, even when becoming the head coach of the Steelers, did not completely relinquish his ST roots, as he knew the importance of the units, and still incorporated himself in meetings and practice sessions, and he discusses as much in his new book, Heart and Steel. With that said, here is an analysis of where the Steelers stand in terms of the depth chart for special teams for the 2021 season.
Chris Boswell, 30, enters his 7th season with the Steelers, and outside of one erratic season in 2018 when he missed multiple extra points and field goals more than likely influenced by a groin injury, the Boz has been steady and consistent. While he does not possess a powder keg-leg, he is always on target and clutch when needed. His reliability gives the Steelers an edge in most games in the kicking arena, save for kickoffs in which he is average.
In terms of depth, Sam Sloman was recently signed to minimize wear and tear on Boswell in camp, and if anything, this an opportunity for him to showcase what he can do for other teams in the NFL.
Oh yes, there is a competition brewing at the punter position, as rookie Pressley Harvin looks to unseat veteran Jordan Berry. Like Boswell, Berry has been with the team since 2015, beating out Brad Wing for the starting position. Berry has averaged a respectable 44.4 yards per punt, though his career began a bit shaky with the Steelers. Harvin possesses a massive leg and some gimmicky traits that if can be harnessed consistently, will give him a legitimate shot to unseat Berry.
Diontae Johnson has provided the most production as a punt returner, though that has not come without its foibles in terms of ball security. Ray Ray McCloud has also returned punts on occasion, and will more than likely serve as the backup, unless one of the undrafted rookies makes a name for himself in camp.
Ray Ray McCloud and Anthony McFarland seem poised to be the kick returnmen for the Steelers in 2021. McCloud showed some promise last season, but his production faded as the season progressed. It will be Interesting to see if McFarland can make any contributions on the kick return unit in year 2. And like punt returner, never discount an UDRFA to stand out as a returner in the preseason and make a push for a roster spot.
Kameron Canaday has been the long snapper for the Steelers since 2017, and he will enter the 2021 season as the starter, even though Christian Kuntz is currently on the roster as an LB/LS.
Jordan Berry has been the holder for field goals the past several seasons, but this could also be in jeopardy with the addition of Harvin.