Pittsburgh’s 2020 schedule has been ranked the second easiest overall in the NFL. That could make the Steelers an interesting team to keep an eye on for a lot of punters using NJ online casino apps.
The Steelers are set to play only five teams that advanced to the playoffs last season, and their crossover opponents from NFC East and AFC South were largely underwhelming in 2019.
While only the Baltimore Ravens have an easier schedule, on paper, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will still need his players to step up and deliver during the 2020 campaign if they are to fulfill their potential and make the postseason.
Tomlin will be taking nothing for granted, especially after the Steelers failed to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row. Improving on an 8-8 record will be crucial for the Steelers this time around.
Can JuJu Smith-Schuster excel at wide receiver?
JuJu Smith-Schuster will be tasked with being the number one receiver in Pittsburgh’s offense again this year. That was something he struggled with last year as a series of injuries, and changes at the quarterback position, nullified his impact.
Smith-Schuster has been forced to shoulder more responsibility since Antonio Brown was traded to the Raiders before the start of last season. It’s unknown if Brown’s departure, or the quarterback play, led to JuJu’s regression in 2019.
The 23-year-old came in with 1,426 yards, seven touchdowns, and 11 receptions in 2018 when he lined up alongside Brown. Unfortunately, those figures slumped to just 552 yards, three touchdowns, and 42 receptions after his departure.
Injuries withstanding, Smith-Schuster does have the capabilities to excel at the position, and the Steelers will need him to have a big season if they are to live up to their preseason hype.
Will Ben Roethlisberger bounce back?
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in the second week of the 2019 season, but he is now set to return to action after surgery.
The Steelers need the 38-year-old to hit the ground running. Pittsburgh struggled without their main man under center as replacements Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges were graded at a lowly 35th and 37th respectively among all passers last season.
Despite having inconsistent quarterback play, Pittsburgh was still able to record eight wins during the regular season.
That bodes well for Roethlisberger, even if he can only muster up some of his previous magic. His presence will also help Smith-Schuster and other key players.
Will Bud Dupree step up again?
An excellent defense offset offensive woes in 2019: and there was no one more tuned in than outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
Dupree was one of several breakout stars on the Steelers defense, which ranked in the top six for fewest points and yards last year: a performance that was aided by Dupree’s career-high of four forced fumbles and 11.5 sacks.
Dupree’s improved play also helped fellow linebacker T.J. Watt to improve his numbers from the previous year.
The Steelers two “edge defenders” will need to have another big season again in 2020 if playoff ambitions are to be realized.
Others to consider
While some people feel Terrell Edmunds struggled to make an impact last year, the Steelers have spoken strongly about his potential for great things in 2020. General manager Kevin Colbert recently stated otherwise:
NFL football is really a package game right now. It’s more systematic; it’s more substitutional than it ever has been on both sides of the ball. I think when you have versatile people on either side, it really enhances what you might be able to do.
While Edmunds doesn't have the flashy stats as that of his partner Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers safeties who played alongside dynamic counterparts rarely stood out due to their numbers. Ryan Clark, who played alongside Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu for several seasons only had two sacks and 12 interceptions in 111 appearances in a Pittsburgh uniform (for eight seasons).
Fan expectations to turn Edmunds into a hybrid linebacker or "dimebacker" may be way off of the mark for the 2018 first-round pick, particularly with Antoine Brooks being drafted and Ulysses Gilbert coming off of an injury, both making a bid to replace LB Mark Barron who often played a similar role.
Devin Bush is another player to watch as he excelled during his rookie season. James Conner, in a contract year, will need to remain healthy to see a second contract, despite his recent comments about being a Steeler for life.