The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to report to the dormitories at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and with this ignites a brand new season for the black-and-gold.
In retrospect, this 2019 Steelers team really needs this season to start. After a horribly mediocre 2018 season was followed by a drama-filled offseason, it will be good for everyone involved with the team to just get back to football. Not talking about players who have departed, but just about those who are in camp and doing all they can to make the 53-man roster, and hopefully a deep playoff push into February.
While the excitement for the upcoming season in palpable, there are some very important questions which need to be answered before this team can be considered a legitimate contender in the AFC North, let alone to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
Here are 5 serious questions which need answered before the start of the Steelers’ 2019 regular season:
1. Will Devin Bush be an immediate impact player, or will he need a year to get acclimated?
When you trade up 10 spots in the 2019 NFL Draft to take Devin Bush with the 10th overall pick, you are expecting to get a player who can play right away. Sure, Troy Polamalu, who wasn’t drafted in the Top 10, took a year to really develop, but the expectations for Bush are that he can be game ready when the team heads to Foxborough in Week 1 to play the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. If he proves to be that time of player, it will make the Steelers’ defense more dynamic as Mark Barron can be used in different ways, not necessarily as the every down linebacker.
2. Can Ben Roethlisberger make up for the loss of Antonio Brown by distributing the ball?
The loss of Antonio Brown goes beyond the drama he brought to the team at the end of the season. In 2019 fans are wondering how the Steelers will make up the 15 touchdowns Brown caught last season. When Ben Roethlisberger received his two-year contract extension this offseason it was made clear he was still considered the man for the Steelers. The straw which stirs the Steelers’ drink. If Roethlisberger wants to get the job done in 2019 without Brown he will have to spread the ball around to multiple targets, not relying on one player to make up the majority of the receptions. If he can do this, which most would agree should be his forte, the Steelers’ offense could be prolific in how they spread the football around.
3. Will Steven Nelson transform the secondary, or be the latest free agent flub?
The Steelers’ recent free agent signings have not been of the memorable kind. Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic were one-and-done players. Ladarius Green was one of the worst signings in Steelers history. And Mike Mitchell’s time in Pittsburgh varies depending who you talk to, but the fact remains the Steelers going out and getting high priced players hasn’t always worked out. Can Steven Nelson break this mold, or will he be the latest player to come to Pittsburgh to flounder, not thrive? His success, or failure, could determine the success, or failure, of the defense.
4. Can Chris Boswell regain his 2017 form, or is 2018 the new norm?
Some think Chris Boswell won’t even make the roster in 2019, but don’t count me in this crowd. After receiving a new contract prior to the 2018 season, the Steelers aren’t an organization who likes to show they made a critical mistake the very next season. With that said, will Boswell be able to regain his 2017 form? Or will his awful 2018 season become the new norm? I have a feeling Boswell will at least find median between the two seasons and remain a serviceable option in 2019.
5. Will Mike Tomlin be able to prove the doubters wrong and get the Steelers back to the postseason?
In Mike Tomlin’s tenure with the Steelers, the pressure to get the team right hasn’t been this strong in a long time. Tomlin supporters always point to his no losing seasons throughout his time as an NFL head coach, but not losing more than you win just doesn’t cut it in Pittsburgh. The Steelers’, along with several other organizations in the NFL, gauge success based on one thing — championships. Tomlin didn’t even get his team to the dance last season, let alone to center stage. Can he prove the doubters wrong in 2019? If one thing is certain, he at least has his locker room back after Brown and Bell have gone to new locations. No more excuses, Tomlin needs to deliver the goods in 2019 and I think he will do just that.