After starting out 11-0 and looking like a juggernaut, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense fell off a cliff. Pittsburgh averaged a measly 16.5 points per game (PPG) over its final six games of the season, going 1-5 during that time.
While there was optimism around the team potentially flipping the switch come playoff time, that never materialized. The Steelers got embarrassed by the division-rival Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round, ending their season with a 48-37 loss.
Needing to shake things up on offense, Pittsburgh is currently projected to be $18 million over the cap in 2021. That could force the team's hand, leading to a potentially significant amount of turnover on the roster. Here are three players that likely won't be back with the Steelers in 2021.
3. Avery Williamson, LB
Avery Williamson came over from the New York Jets in a mid-season deal. He was a a great run defender, but a liability elsewhere, earning a 78.0 grade from ProFootballFocus against the run and an atrocious 33.0 in coverage. Pittsburgh won't need him as much in 2021 once Devin Bush gets healthy, and the Steelers just don't have the space to bring him back without doing some cap gymnastics. Frankly, he's not a good enough player to warrant that. He's likely heading elsewhere in free agency.
2. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
No one drafts wide receivers better than GM Kevin Colbert and the Steelers. They're currently loaded at the position with talented, young players. Perception wise, JuJu Smith-Schuster is probably the biggest star of the bunch, but his production hasn't matched his reputation recently. He hasn't topped 100 receiving yards in the regular season since Week 8 of 2019. In fact, his 1,383 receiving yards over the past two seasons still don't match the 1,426 he put up in that increasingly flukey-looking 2018 campaign. With rising stars like Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson alongside a solid WR3 in James Washington, Pittsburgh has no need to overpay for JuJu. The 24-year-old should be able to get more money elsewhere in free agency while getting to start fresh in a bigger role. This feels like the right move for both parties.
1. Bud Dupree, OLB
Bud Dupree revitalized his career with a tremendous 2019 campaign, recording 11.5 sacks. Failing to come to terms on a long-term deal, Pittsburgh gave Dupree the franchise tag in 2021. He looked to be worth every penny, recording 8.0 sacks through 11 games. Unfortunately, his year was cut short by a season-ending ACL injury. His replacement Alex Highsmith really turned some heads while filling in for the injured star. Given the injury, the financial constraints Pittsburgh is dealing with and the play of Highsmith, it's tough to see Dupree getting the deal he's looking from the Steelers.
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