History shows there is constant turnover when it comes to life in the NFL and the teams who make up the 12 organizations represented in the AFC and NFC Playoffs. Picking the teams who missed out of the playoffs this year, but will make it next season has become a regular exercise for major media outlets.
So, Pro Football Focus (PFF) joined in the fray and picked four teams they thought would rebound to make the playoffs in 2020 for a variety of reasons. Those four teams would be...
Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team who finished the 2019 season 8-8 and on a three-game losing streak to make their years without a postseason berth hit 2. So, what exactly do the experts at PFF believe the Steelers will bounce back and be playing meaningful games in January?
Check out what they had to say:
Once a favorite to make the AFC wild card, the Steelers petered out down the stretch, losing their last three games and finishing 8-8, one game behind the Titans. Big Ben’s elbow injury left the Steelers with an offense that generated a yards per play average that finished ahead of only the New York Jets, who started Luke Falk at quarterback for multiple games. The problems were not only isolated at quarterback, though, as JuJu Smith-Schuster struggled with injuries and ineffective play (1.59 yards per route run going into Week 17) after a breakout sophomore season.
What kept the Steelers in the race was their defense. The additions of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Devin Bush and Steven Nelson, along with the emergence of Bud Dupree, yielded a group that ranked first in our overall PFF defensive grades and tied for first in yards per play allowed. They led the NFL in turnovers generated per drive thanks to five picks each from Fitzpatrick and cornerback Joe Haden.
Wait…“defense doesn’t win games” is something we’ve harped on for a long time, and it’s a pretty safe bet that the Steelers do not repeat as turnover champions in 2020. However, even if the defense takes a step back, an offense guided by Big Ben, one of the best offensive lines in football and a great young stable of receivers should be in the running for double-digit wins in a 2020 season where they face the weak NFC East and AFC South divisions as well as play two games each against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
The reasoning behind the Steelers potential resurgence next season is the same as every other prediction surrounding the black-and-gold for the future — it all hinges on Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, the Steelers’ defense is legit, but if 2019 proved anything it is a defense that leads the league in sacks and takeaways is great, but not capable of always scoring points. This is where the Steelers failed miserably in 2019 when they couldn’t turn those gifted takeaways into points. The perfect example of this was the Week 3 game in San Francisco where the 49ers turned it over 5 times, and the Steelers could barely muster field goals off those turnovers.
If Roethlisberger is able to return and show he is more than capable of being the player he was before his elbow surgery, the Steelers will have every chance to live up to the aforementioned prediction by PFF. But if he struggles, it could be more of the same in 2020 with an offense incapable of scoring enough points to win in today’s NFL.
What do you think of the prediction? Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they embark on another lengthy offseason.