The Steelers are hoping that Ben Roethlisberger’s return to the field brings the team back to their winning ways. Last year was the first Steelers season without a winning record since 2013.
Although 8-8 did get the team a second-place finish in the AFC North, Pittsburgh missed the postseason. If the Steelers do not make the playoffs in 2020, it will be the first time that they will have missed the postseason for three consecutive years under Mike Tomlin.
While the Steelers struggled mightily on offense last year, they had a tremendous defense, as they were the best takeaway team in the league. An important reason for the Pittsburgh defense’s impressive jump into the top five was the acquisition of FS Minkah Fitzpatrick. In September 2019, the Steelers brought in Fitzpatrick in an exchange of draft picks that included a 2020 first-round selection heading to the Miami Dolphins.
Read Also: Baltimore Ravens Predictions and Odds
2020 Steelers Draft Picks
Chase Claypool, WR (Notre Dame)
Alex Highsmith, LB (Charlotte)
Anthony McFarland Jr., RB (Maryland)
Kevin Dotson, OL (Louisiana-Lafayette)
Antoine Brooks Jr., S (Maryland)
Carlos Davis, DT (Nebraska)
Notable Other New Faces for the Steelers
Derek Watt, FB (T.J. Watt’s brother)
Eric Ebron, TE
Chris Wormley, DE
Dustin Colquitt, P
Notable Steelers in New Places
Roosevelt Nix, FB – released
Xavier Grimble, TE – released
Javon Hargrave, DT – Philadelphia Eagles
Anthony Chickillo, LB – released
Tyler Matakevich, LB – Buffalo Bills
Ryan Shazier, LB – retired
Artie Burns, CB – Chicago Bears
Jordan Berry, P – released
Notable Steelers on the Injury Report
James Conner, RB – questionable for Week 2 with an ankle injury
Anthony McFarland Jr., RB – out for Week 1 (coach’s decision)
Zach Banner, OT – out for Week 2 with a knee injury
David DeCastro, OG – out for Week 1 with a knee injury; questionable for Week 2
Stefen Wisniewski, OG – questionable for Week 2 with a pectoral injury
Carlos Davis, DT – out for Week 1 (coach’s decision)
Steelers Who Have Opted Out of 2020 NFL Season
None; one of three teams to not have a player opt-out: Falcons and Chargers
Steelers Offense Predictions
Ben Roethlisberger is back from his elbow injury and began the 2020 season on a strong note, as he threw for 229 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1. He posted a strong quarterback rating of 117.8, which would have ranked fourth among his games played in 2018. The impressive start for the six-time Pro Bowler should bode well for a strong season as long as Roethlisberger stays healthy.
Steelers Running Backs: Will Benny Snell Jr. Be the Team’s Leading Running Back in 2020?
James Conner looks to bounce back from a difficult 2019 that included him playing just ten games. Conner, a cancer survivor, took over for Le’Veon Bell in 2018 and made the Pro Bowl that year after running for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. He tacked on 55 receptions for 497 yards and a receiving touchdown that year. However, his statistics almost all decreased in 2019.
After Conner left early in Week 1 of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, the carries went to backup running back Benny Snell Jr. A fourth-round selection in the 2019 draft, Snell took over the reins on the early downs while Jaylen Samuels, a fifth-round pick in 2018, came in on many passing downs. Snell received 108 carries for 426 rushing yards and two touchdowns during his rookie season in 2019.
In Week 1’s 26-16 victory over the New York Giants, Snell ran for a career-high 113 yards. His 5.95 yards per rushing attempt were also his best for any game in which he received multiple carries. If Snell can continue to produce, then the Steelers can give Conner more time to get back to full health.
Steelers Wide Receivers: Will Juju Smith-Schuster Be the Red Zone Threat, and Will Diontae Johnson Lead the Team in Catches?
JuJu Smith-Schuster (six targets) and Diontae Johnson (10 targets) brought in six receptions and combined for 126 receiving yards. Smith-Schuster was productive in the red zone, as he scored two of the team’s three touchdowns. The other Steelers touchdown came on a 13-yard catch by James Washington, the team leading receiving in 2019. Roethlisberger connected with eight different Steelers on passes, and one of them was rookie Chase Claypool, who had two receptions for 39 yards.
Steelers Tight Ends: Will Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald Combine for Double-Digit Touchdowns?
Roethlisberger has a rich history of involving tight ends as secondary receiving options. If Smith-Schuster and Johnson are covered, then the future Hall of Fame quarterback can find either his running back or one of his two main tight ends. Eric Ebron (13 touchdowns with Indianapolis in 2018) and Vance McDonald (four touchdowns with Pittsburgh in 2018) were not involved much in Week 1’s victory, as they each had just two targets. They combined for two catches, which went for a combined 21 yards. They should be targeted more in the coming weeks and should be able to help in the red zone as well.
Read Also: Cleveland Browns Predictions and Odds
Steelers Defense Predictions
Mike Tomlin knows how to build strong defenses, and the Steelers are attempting to have top-five defenses in back-to-back years for the first time since 2011 and 2012. FS Minkah Fitzpatrick and CB Joe Haden led the team with five interceptions apiece last season.
They ranked fourth in the entire NFL in interceptions. Fitzpatrick’s 130 interception return yards were the third-most for any player in the NFL last year, as he made his first Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro.
LB T.J. Watt is ready for another spectacular season, as he enters with the most sacks in the 2017 draft class. The 22-year-old begins 2020 with 34.5 sacks, and he already grabbed his fourth career interception in Week 1 of the season. At his current pace, Watt will be able to join his brother J.J. as a surefire Hall of Famer.
Not only do the Steelers have Watt, but they also have DL Cameron Heyward, who signed a four-year, $71.4 million contract extension in early September. He is the NFL’s fourth-highest paid interior lineman. Heyward was Pittsburgh’s No. 31 overall draft pick in 2011, and he has made each of the last three Pro Bowls.
Read Also: Cincinnati Bengals Predictions and Odds
Steelers Special Teams Predictions
Chris Boswell enters his sixth season with the Steelers, as he looks to make the second Pro Bowl of his career. In Boswell’s third year in Pittsburgh (2017), he made his first Pro Bowl, as his 142 points ranked fourth in the NFL, and his 92 percent field goal percentage was sixth-best. Boswell’s field goal percentage is also the sixth-best in NFL history, and he looks to continue his strong kicking ways in 2020 for the Steelers.
Meanwhile, at the punting position, long-time Kansas City Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in early September. Colquitt, who set the Chiefs record for the most games played in franchise history, replaces Steelers P Jordan Berry, who played at Eastern Kentucky. Berry punted for Pittsburgh from 2015 to 2019 and even handled three kickoffs last year.
Steelers Head Coach Predictions
Mike Tomlin returns with his offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner (third season with Pittsburgh) and defensive coordinator Keith Butler (sixth season with Pittsburgh) for what hopes to be a return to the playoffs. Tomlin is the league’s third-longest tenured coach as he enters his 14th season with the Steelers.
Before becoming a Super Bowl champion head coach with the Steelers, he was a Super Bowl champion assistant coach. Tomlin began his coaching career as a wide receivers coach for the Virginia Military Institute Keydets in 1995.
He started his first NFL coaching job as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive backs coach in 2001. Just one and half years after gracing the sidelines of an NFL game, he was a part of the Super Bowl XXXVII champion Buccaneers.
Steelers Predictions for Week 2
The 1-0 Steelers host the 0-1 Denver Broncos in Week 2. Both teams will be on a short week after playing separate contests for Week 1’s Monday Night Football doubleheader. The line opened with Pittsburgh being a five-point favorite, and it has moved to as high as 7.5 points in some books.
The over/under is just 41.5 points, which is one of the lowest of the week. Denver’s defense may not be as strong as expected with eight-time Pro Bowl LB Von Miller out for the season with an ankle injury. The Steelers offense should produce another strong game and should win the contest. For those who think Pittsburgh can jump out to a strong start, there is strong value in betting the Steelers (-7.5) in Week 2.
Steelers Predictions for 2020 Season
In 2018, the Steelers had the best offensive red zone efficiency in the NFL, but with the loss of Roethlisberger, they fell to last in red-zone efficiency in 2019. The Steelers went 9-7 against the spread last year and won a total of eight games. They are expected to improve, but with the 2020 over/under for the Steelers being 9.5 wins, it isn’t easy to find value in betting the over for them.
Just one or two injuries could devastate Pittsburgh’s season, but if the Steelers stay relatively healthy, they can find a way to upset the Baltimore Ravens once or twice and steal the division. The Steelers’ odds are +300 to win the AFC North, and they are eighth overall with +2500 Super Bowl championship odds.
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