Vince Williams the lone new starter on Steelers' experienced defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who open training camp on Friday in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, will have a familiar lineup as the season opens. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger): Roethlisberger enters his 14th season as a starter and is coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl. He has arguably his best supporting cast in place in 2017.

Tailback (Le'Veon Bell): Bell carried the Steelers at times in 2016 with an average of 157 total yards per game, third all time for running backs. Bell is 25 and should be entering his prime, though the Steelers could try to protect him with a reasonable workload.

Wide receiver (Antonio Brown): Brown is eyeing a fifth straight 100-catch season, which has never been done. Brown is eager to produce after signing a four-year, $68 million extension.

Wide receiver (Martavis Bryant): Under conditional reinstatement, Bryant must pass frequent drug tests and successfully complete his treatment to play in Week 1. The 25-year-old is on track to do so, and the big playmaker added about 10 pounds of muscle this offseason. Bryant is technically a new starter but doesn't seem like one.

Wide receiver (Eli Rogers): Rogers has the chance to do damage in the slot while Brown and Bryant man the outside. Rogers had an uneven debut in 2016 but still came away with 48 catches for 594 yards.

Tight end (Jesse James): The unquestioned starter for the first time, James is looking to build on his 10 catches for 131 yards in the Steelers' final two playoff games last season. James isn't a speedster, but he can be an effective red zone target.

Left tackle (Alejandro Villanueva): Villanueva is often openly critical of his own play, but his performance during the second half of 2016 solidified his spot as a productive NFL left tackle.

Left guard (Ramon Foster): Pro Football Focus ranked Foster as the No. 2 left guard after he didn't give up a sack in 2016. Foster dealt with offseason injuries but should be ready for camp.

Center (Maurkice Pouncey): Pouncey is considered the team's emotional leader and is glad to be healthy after missing most of 2013 and 2015 with serious injuries.

Right guard (David DeCastro): As one of the NFL's highest-paid offensive guards, DeCastro was an All-Pro in 2015. He is an effective lead blocker in many of the Steelers' running sets.

Right tackle (Marcus Gilbert): Gilbert has become one of the league's best right tackles and looks forward to the Week 1 matchup with the Cleveland Browns' top pick, Myles Garrett.


Defensive end (Cam Heyward): Heyward recovered from a pectoral injury this offseason and will be full strength for training camp. One of the Steelers' team captains, he is eyeing his first Pro Bowl.

Defensive end (Stephon Tuitt): A candidate for a hefty contract extension sometime in August, Tuitt believes he's close to becoming one of the league's fiercest linemen after collecting 78 tackles and 11.5 sacks in three seasons.

Defensive tackle (Javon Hargrave): Hargrave was at times the Steelers' steadiest rookie last season, despite a relatively quiet, two-sack campaign. The Steelers have big plans for Hargrave as a versatile, pass-rushing tackle.

Left outside linebacker (Bud Dupree): The Steelers are hoping -- no, expecting -- Dupree to put up double-digit sacks and fulfill his enormous potential; James Harrison will lead the Steelers' pass-rush room until Dupree takes that spot from him.

Inside linebacker (Ryan Shazier): Shazier is a Pro Bowl player. With a full 16-game season, he might become an All-Pro. Injuries have cost Shazier 13 games in three seasons.

Inside linebacker (Vince Williams): The only new defensive starter for the Steelers is a big hitter who showed noticeable quickness in offseason workouts.

Right outside linebacker (James Harrison): He's still the Steelers' most effective pass-rusher, which is a credit to Harrison's superior regimen at age 39, but also a reminder that the Steelers' young pass-rushers need to do more. Harrison will likely fend off rookie T.J. Watt for the starting spot, but the Steelers could choose to rest him when it's appropriate.

Cornerback (Artie Burns): Burns will make the occasional mistake, but the fact that he's not fazed by the errors is his best attribute. He's fearless. He goes up against Brown every day at practice. He has the range and speed to become a high-level starting corner.

Cornerback (Ross Cockrell): Once an afterthought following his rookie 2014 season in Buffalo, Cockrell played nearly 1,100 snaps for Pittsburgh's defense last season. The restricted free agent might be set up for a contract extension with a consistent 2017 campaign.

Strong safety (Sean Davis): Davis is an effective blitzer and a big hitter who's looking to break out in Year 2. Focusing on strong safety will help Davis after he played some nickel corner in 2016.

Free safety (Mike Mitchell): Mitchell said he gained 10 pounds of muscle this offseason and feels quicker than a year ago. With more balance on the Steelers' defense, Mitchell should have more freedom to take risks and create turnovers.


Kicker (Chris Boswell): Boswell is a great story. He turned a 2015 free-agent tryout into 50 made field goals on 57 tries (87.7 percent) ever since. He has proved to be a consistent kicker in cold weather, making six field goals twice late last season at Cincinnati and Kansas City.

Punter (Jordan Berry): Twenty-five of Berry's 68 punting attempts landed inside the 20 last season. After beating out Brad Wing two camps ago, Berry hasn't done anything to put his job in jeopardy.

Long-snapper (Colin Holba): The Steelers took Holba in the sixth round to replace ailing Greg Warren. There's minimal competition for this job, and Holba must produce right away.