Pittsburgh Steelers: Expectations for the Steel City Franchise in 2020
With only a few weeks until the Pittsburgh Steelers open their 2020 regular season against the New York Giants, it’s time to examine the team’s expectations for the new year.
Pittsburgh has missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Let’s do a deep dive into the Steelers’ 2020 expectations.
Ben Roethlisberger is back and it appears as though he is healthy and ready to go.
I expect Big Ben to resurrect this Steeler offense and make some big throws this season.
Ben played really well two seasons ago and if he is protected he should tear up opposing defenses.
James Conner needs to be healthy and get back to where he was in 2018.
That season, Conner had 12 rushing touchdowns and tallied 973 yards.
I’m not sure how effective Bennie Snell, Jr. will be with Conner taking most of the carries this season.
Jaylen Samuels was recently activated from the COVID reserve list.
Last season, Samuels had 305 receiving yards on 47 catches.
I don’t think Conner will stay perfectly healthy during this coming season, but I expect the Steelers to run the ball better than they did in 2019.
Receivers and Tight Ends
JuJu Smith-Schuster only had 42 receptions last season for 552 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, James Washington shined in his second NFL season out of Oklahoma State.
Washington recorded 735 yards and three scores on 44 catches.
If the receivers can stay healthy, I would expect them to take the next step in their development.
Diontae Johnson had 59 catches for 680 yards and five scores in his rookie year out of Toledo.
I like this group of receivers and let’s not forget the tight ends.
Eric Ebron just joined the Steelers this offseason and brings a wealth of experience.
Ebron posted 13 touchdown receptions in 2018 and 750 yards.
However, he is coming off an injury-plagued 2019 season. Ebron went to the season-ending IR after 11 games played.
The North Carolina product had surgeries on both ankles and should be ready for a bounceback season in Pittsburgh.
However, Ebron doesn’t have to carry the load since Vance McDonald is still with the black and gold.
Of course, the receivers should step up and make plays along with the backs.
I’m not expecting Ebron to be a Pro Bowler, but he should score around five to eight touchdowns because he can be a great target for Big Ben over the middle and in the red zone, potentially.
With guard Ramon Foster retiring, the Steelers are trying to figure out their alignment in the trenches.
Meanwhile, we still have to see how Stefen Wisniewski will be utilized as a Steeler, but he was apart of the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl run last season.
The Penn State product was also on the Philadelphia Eagles roster when they won their first Super Bowl a few years back. So, Wisniewski understands what it takes to be successful in postseason play.
I think the Steelers o-line will be okay in 2020, but they need to hope their younger guys can rise up.
Defensively, the Steelers line can still play. Cam Heyward is in the final year of his current deal and Stephon Tuitt needs to be healthy following surgery to a torn pec muscle.
Pittsburgh did see Javon Hargrave depart in free agency and sign with Philly, so who steps up?
Big Dan McCullers and Lavon Hooks are the top-2 defensive tackles for the Steelers, but I’m waiting to see more from these guys.
I expect the d-line to put some pressure on opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks, but the future is murky.
If this is the last season the current d-line will remain intact, will this mean Heyward, Tuitt, and McCullers will play their best basketball ever as a unit?
The best part of this year’s Steeler team is their linebackers.
Devin Bush, 22, looks like a staple of this Pittsburgh defense for years to come.
His rookie season out of Michigan was a perfect start to his NFL career.
Bush tallied 72 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and a forced fumble.
Vince Williams was a serviceable player last season and has been in the Steel City since 2013.
I expect this group of linebackers to play at a high level if not a higher level this season.
The secondary improved last season with the addition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick posted five interceptions and nine pass deflections to go along with 44 solo tackles.
Joe Haden, 31, had the second-most interceptions of his career when he picked off QBs five times in ’19.
Cornerback Steven Nelson played well in his first season in Pittsburgh and chalked up 61 tackles.
Terrell Edmunds is entering his third year in the league and despite what some may say, the strong safety had 105 total tackles last year.
Like the linebackers, I also believe this secondary will be just as good if not better in 2020. Especially, if the younger guys get opportunities to showcase how much they’ve grown and of course it should be better with Fitzpatrick there for a whole season.
Haden came out this week and said he is “expecting to get eight (interceptions)” this season.
The veteran corner also said he could have tallied nine picks, but he dropped four of them.
That expectation adds to the level of intensity this secondary has to enter the new year.
Diontae Johnson and James Washington are most likely going to be the punt and kick return men for Pittsburgh this season and there’s potential for them to excel more than they did last campaign.
I expect the Pitt special teams to be a little better in 2020, but not by much.
Overall, this should be a better season for the Steelers compared to the last two seasons and hopefully a healthier season.
With plenty of younger players who should be able to rise up, there should be some positive growth for the Steelers.
From Johnson and Washington to Bush and Edmunds, it’s time for these draft picks to stand out even more.
I expect the Steelers to be 11-5 or 10-6 this season and they should claim one of the Wild Card spots.
What are your expectations for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020? Leave a comment below.
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