Over the past three weeks, Steel City Underground has previewed the upcoming 2020-21 NFL regular season, and the opponents the Pittsburgh Steelers will face, by quarters. This week we preview NFL Weeks 13-17.
While this is the final quarter of our four-part season preview, NFL lines for these weeks aren't yet available. That doesn't mean we can't preview each of the opponents and offer you a look at the teams the Steelers will face, changes they made during the 2020 NFL Draft and offseason, and how that could set up some interesting lines and odds down the road.
Week 13: Steelers vs Washington Redskins
The last time Pittsburgh and Washington went head-to-head during the regular season was in Week 1 of the 2016-17 NFL season. The Steelers, held scoreless by the Redskins defense in the first quarter, got hot in the second quarter as Ben Roethlisberger led two time-consuming drives that resulted in a touchdown pass by Antonio Brown followed up by one to Eli Rogers. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was intercepted twice (Ryan Shazier, James Harrison) and the defense couldn't keep DeAngelo Williams from pounding the ball into the end zone, twice, in the final quarter of the game. The Steelers opened the season with a 38-16 win on the road.
Last Season Records: Steelers (8-8), Redskins (3-13)
During the 2020 NFL Draft, the Redskins selected the following players: Chase Young (Edge, Ohio State), Antonio Gibson (WR, Memphis), Saahdiq Charles (OT, LSU), Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR, Liberty), Keith Ismael (C, San Diego State), Khaleke Hudson (LB, Michigan), Kamren Curl (S, Arkansas), James Smith-Williams (Edge, NC State).
Holding the No. 2 overall pick, it came as little surprise that the Redskins pulled the trigger to grab arguably the best edge defender in the draft class in Young. Washington didn't show any intention of trading away their pick and Young looks to be the go-to bookend on the defensive line opposite Montez Sweat in 2020. The Redskins struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone last season and they expect Young and Smith-Williams to give them up-front help while working Hudson and Curl into the defensive rotation.
Offensively, the Redskins selected a dual-threat versatile receiver in Gibson. A speedster, he could open up the field on deep routes or slip into the slot that Chris Thompson vacated during free agency. Gandy-Golden should give them decent depth.
One of the craziest moments of the 2020 NFL Draft happened when, in a span of five minutes, the Redskins traded veteran left tackle Trent Williams and drafted Charles. Charles struggled at times with off-field issues but everyone expects Ron Rivera to get him back on track.
Week 14: Steelers at Buffalo Bills
The Steelers and Bills met at Heinz Field just last season, during Week 15. Buffalo was surging under head coach Sean McDermott and finished second in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots. Buffalo, however, lost in the wild card round to the Houston Texans, 19-22, while the Patriots lost in the wild card round to the Tennessee Titans, 13-20. Buffalo is a team that looks to be a great matchup for Pittsburgh in 2020, so this game could prove pivotal in playoff seeding for the AFC.
Last Season Records: Steelers (8-8), Bills (10-6)
During the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bills selected the following players: A.J. Epenesa (DE, Iowa), Zach Moss (RB, Utah), Gabriel Davis (WR, UCF), Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia), Tyler Bass (K, Georgia Southern), Isaiah Hodgins (WR, Oregon State), Dane Jackson (CB, Pitt).
When it came time for Buffalo to make their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, there were over 20 different collegiate players that would have fit a need for their team. After losing Shaq Lawson and signing Mario Addison during free agency, the Bills chose a guy that help set a foundation for the future in Epenesa. Although he didn't have a great performance at the Pro Scouting Combine, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound defender showed plenty of power with the Iowa Hawkeyes and should give Buffalo situational depth behind Addison, Trent Murphy, and Jerry Hughes. It doesn't hurt that Sean McDermott, who was a very successful wrestler as well as a collegiate football player, loves the Iowa football program and is familiar with what Kirk Ferentz and company are doing there (and met Ferentz at Eskimo's Gym where McDermott trained).
The Bills are still trying to build a championship team and they focused on tools they could partner with Josh Allen, including fellow quarterback Fromm. Moss, a bruiser, gives the Bills a tandem at running back with Devin Singletary, sliding into Frank Gore's former role. Davis is an imposing receiver who can work his way into the rotation beside Cole Beasley, Stefon Diggs, and John Brown. Hodgins looks like a potential red-zone threat that Buffalo can utilize.
- 2020 Steelers schedule by quarters: Weeks 1-4
- 2020 Steelers schedule by quarters: Weeks 5-8
- 2020 Steelers schedule by quarters: Weeks 9-12
Week 16: Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
In our Week 10 preview, we looked in-depth at the Bengals' rebuild. Head coach Zac Taylor is intent on building a championship-caliber team. Both of these AFC North rivals would love to put a 'W' in their win/loss column with this late-season game. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, things could get very interesting in Week 16 as far as seeding for the playoffs and who will be crowned as the divisional champion.
Week 17: Steelers at Cleveland Browns
In our Week Six preview, we took a hard look at what the Browns have planned for the 2020 NFL season. These two teams have finished the regular season against each other several times throughout their history and, while it may not come down to deciding the divisional champion, this game should still be a competition - even if it's just for bragging rights. It will also factor into playoff seeding should either the Steelers or the Browns have an outstanding upcoming regular season.