Upon first glance it doesn’t appear that the 2018 iteration of the Pittsburgh Steelers is much different than the 2017 edition. However, Sunday’s tie against the Cleveland Browns revealed some key changes to the depth chart and playing time compared with last season.
Below is a list of players, both new to the team and veterans with the Steelers, who constitute a change in Pittsburgh’s plans.
The most obvious change from last year’s team to this year’s is the absence of Ryan Shazier.
Shazier was a special playmaking talent who never left the field. His replacement, if you can call him that (because I don’t feel you can ever replace Shazier) is Jon Bostic, who appears to be interchangeable in the early going, playing 66% of the snaps.
Bostic, however, came away with a sack against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday and a combined nine tackles to his first game as a Steeler.
Davis is far from new, but finds himself in a new role for 2018, replacing Mike Mitchell as the Steelers free safety. Davis looked sharp in his new position, deflecting two passes and adding five combined tackles in Week 1.
The Steelers 2018 first round draft pick started on Sunday, playing over 80% of the game. He would have a quarterback hit and a pass deflection.
One of the biggest questions this offseason was “Who will replace Martavis Bryant?”
It appears, at least for the time being, that Hunter is that replacement. The veteran played 61% of the snaps, third to Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and far more than rookie James Washington, who only logged 11 total snaps on Sunday to Hunter’s 51.
Hunter only caught one of the five balls thrown his way; that may be due to weather. A penalty also negated a touchdown catch as well but showed that Big Ben was looking his direction often.
Switzer may have finally supplanted Antonio Brown as the team’s punt returner, just about anyone you can think of that has returned kicks this decade, and also took over Eli Rogers role as a slot receiver. Switzer had 125 total return yards and an eight-yard run on an end-around.
Almost as obvious as Shazier’s absence is that of Le’Veon Bell. The running back has yet to sign his franchise tag, making way for Conner, a second-year rusher who pounded the Browns defense to the tune of 192 total yards and two touchdowns.
TJ Watt and Bud Dupree
This one is for bonus points. Watt and Dupree switched sides this season, which has already reaped rewards for the defense. Watt had four sacks and three QB hits, with a total of 11 tackles.
Dupree had a lone sack but added two more quarterback hits and five tackles to his game totals. Dupree also forced a fumble and knocked down a pair of passes in coverage.
This change may be the one that stands out the least to the casual fan but may stand out the most after one game in the books.