Welcome to our 2019 Steelers season preview and predictions. Here you’ll find our picks for the Steelers record in 2019 plus a little explainer on why we think they’ll finish with the record they will.
As much as most of the offseason conversation and focus has often been about how the Steelers can possibly rebound after losing Antonio Brown, and even another year without Le’Veon Bell, I don’t see the offense taking that much of a step back. While AB is obviously a great player on the field, Pittsburgh still has weapons. Ben Roethlisberger might even have a better season without having to worry about getting AB his numbers. I fully expect Ben to be more efficient, which while that may mean less yards (he threw for the most yards of his career in 2018), it also could mean less interceptions. I discussed this in further detail on a recent edition of my Pittsburgh Sports Live show. The most important thing for the Steelers offense will be either James Washington or Donte Moncrief emerging as the second receiver option. It’s critical to have a solid second option with defenses now sending most of the coverage AB used to receive to JuJu. James Conner also appears to be in the best shape of his life, which should help him stay healthier and be even better in another year as the featured back.
While the Steelers will certainly have their hiccups, and we know are always vulnerable to play down to lesser opponents, Pittsburgh is my pick to win the AFC North. Yes, Cleveland will be good. But the Browns aren’t guaranteed anything. In addition to the offense being fine, and even more importantly, the defense should be better too. Signing Steven Nelson will help the secondary, one that desperately needs to create some turnovers, not just get more stops. My bold prediction might not even be that bold at all: Devin Bush will be the Defensive Rookie of the Year, which will only start his tenure as the next face of the franchise.
Losing Antonio Brown is tough but the defense is improved and both the Ravens and Browns probably aren’t as good as people expect. It’s going to be a jumble at the top of the division, but the Steelers will win the AFC North behind season MVP Ben Roethlisberger and a defense that finishes in the top 10. The one caveat is the schedule, which features some brutal games. Fortunately for the Steelers is that aside from opening night in New England and a road matchup in Los Angeles against the Chargers, most of the good teams have to come to Pittsburgh. Plus they get the AFC East which means very winnable games against the Dolphins, Jets and Bills.
The Steelers improved their defense greatly with the additions of Mark Barron, Devin Bush and Steven Nelson over the offseason. The offense will obviously be without Antonio Brown, but a second year in the system for Jaylen Samuels and James Washington should provided dividends and free agent addition Donte Moncrief has the ability to make teams pay for double-teaming JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Maybe the biggest factor in the Steelers’ favor is that the division doesn’t seem to be rising around them. Cleveland is the preseason favorite with a young quarterback, a first-year head coach and plenty of questions on defense.