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If ever there was a team hitting the gridiron in 2019-20 with a chip on its shoulder, it’s without a doubt the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin’s troops disappointed in a big way last season playing to a 9-6-1 record that included head scratching defeats against the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos as road favorites. On top of that, the team failed to show up in big games against the top dogs like the Saints, Chargers, Ravens, Chiefs and Browns. A dark cloud followed the team right from training camp with the holdout of Le’Veon Bell, and some might say it stuck around in the offseason with Antonio Brown now suiting up for the Silver and Black. The betting markets are fading Pittsburgh with it now offering up a 26-1 return on investment after opening 16-1, while its season win total has fallen to an even 9 after opening 9.5. Should it get out to a rough start with games lined up against the Patriots, Seahawks and 49ers, one could only wonder just how safe Mike Tomlin’s job will be.
Though Bell and Brown are no longer in the mix, don’t for one second make the mistake of thinking Pittsburgh’s offense is on the decline. Big Ben Roethlisberger is still under center, and he’s got some fully capable targets to get the pigskin to on every possession. John Conner proved to be readily able to step into the Steelers backfield and run the show in his first full season getting the lion’s share of work. While the injury bug hampered his overall play towards the tail end of the season, he still rumbled for nearly 1,500 combined yards and 13 overall touchdowns. Jaylen Samuels also got some burn and did a good job making the most of it in averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 56 overall carries. The addition of Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. to the backfield only makes it more deep and formidable. You got another thing coming if planning on fading JuJu Smith-Schuster this season with Brown no longer getting the attention of opposing defense’s best cover men. JuJu was the team’s best receiver by far a season ago. Entering his third season as a pro, fantasy footballers have only just begun witnessing his greatness! Don’t sleep on Vance McDonald either – the big targeted tight end is a beast!
Pittsburgh’s defense was pretty solid a season ago. However, it sorely missed Ryan Shazier’s ability to play both the run and the pass in the middle of the field. By snagging Devin Bush Jr. with the tenth pick in the NFL draft, upper management hopes they secured the missing ingredient for years to come. Pairing him with T.J. Watt on the right side of the field looks to be a match made in heaven with the former Wisconsin Badger coming off a campaign in which he racked up a team-high 13 sacks. The Steelers possessed one of the more ferocious front walls in the league that dropped opposing quarterbacks 52 overall times. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave tallied 20 of them and each is back to line up at their respective positions. The addition of Kansas City’s Steven Nelson into the secondary should only help the unit improve upon its No. 10 ranked pass defense from a season ago. The Terrible Towels will no doubt be waving with reckless abandon whenever this defense takes to the field in 2019!
The losses of Pro Bowl caliber players would be tough for any team to overcome. However, the Steelers just aren’t any team. With a blend of both old and new faces looking to put the black and yellow back on the map, Pittsburgh looks to be in solid shape to still exceed expectations and get back into the Super Bowl mix. So long as Big Ben stays healthy and the team can avoid costly turnovers unlike it did last season, Pittsburgh will be in the thick of both the AFC North title race and Super Bowl hunt throughout the entirety of the upcoming season. Even if they get out to a slow start with the schedule mostly unkind the first month, hit them on the readjusted futures odds at top rated sportsbooks – they won’t go down quietly or without a fight!