With 27 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 prediction in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our predictions for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that the Steelers’ offense will score an average of 28 points a game this season on Thursday, I turn my attention to the defensive side of the ball, looking for a big year from someone in the secondary.
Prediction: A defensive player will record at least 5 interceptions for the Steelers in 2019
Why it will happen: Ever since Troy Polamalu finished with seven interceptions in 2010, no Pittsburgh defender has manage to record more than three in each of the past eight seasons. But in 2019, that is a trend that will finally be broken.
Perhaps the biggest cause for optimism is the arrival of Steven Nelson, a player who ended the year with four picks in 2018 and someone the Steelers focused on during free agency specifically because of his ball hawking ability. There also is reason to be optimistic that his second season at free safety will be a far more comfortable experience for Sean Davis. With another training camp behind him at the position, fans could possibly see him better his form of 2017 that saw three interceptions. Entering a career year in Pittsburgh, Davis is poised for a breakout season.
With just one interception during his rookie year, it is fair to expect a notable improvement in Terrell Edmunds, with hopefully some picks to go with it. Edmunds recorded a career high four interceptions while at Virginia Tech in 2016 and was praised for his ball hawking skills coming out of college. It would be nice to see those talents in 2019. Predicting big things from Joe Haden might be a step too far given he has only once reached this milestone in his career as a rookie in 2010.
That being said, with the additions of Devin Bush and Mark Barron at linebacker, and expectations that T.J. Watt can be even more productive in 2019, everyone in the secondary should have more chances to record interceptions if the front seven plays up to their potential. Assuming Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward and Javon Hargrave can all remain healthy, the Steelers have arguably one of the strongest three-man fronts in the NFL. Should the play of Bush match his draft status and Bud Dupree can prove he has learned how to finish, the secondary could be awash with opportunity.
Why it won’t happen: Predicting an improvement from the Pittsburgh secondary has become something of an annual pastime for me as of late, only to be disappointed each time. And while past performance is not necessarily an indicator of a defensive back’s ability to make interceptions, it is worth noting that Nelson is the only one among the presumed starters to have ever recorded five or more interceptions in his college. Haden’s best before the NFL was four, Davis three, and the newly acquired Justin Layne has never finished a year with more than one.
Relying on Bush to provide the extra spark that the front seven needs and also banking on Dupree to produce sacks may be asking too much. But if they cannot generate the pressure when it matters, the secondary will be shredded in ways that have become all too familiar recently, and no one will be making interceptions.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will a defensive player will record at least 5 interceptions for Steelers in 2019?
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