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.
Steelers Connections Abound in Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl
While the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their Super Bowl LV hopes dashed two weeks ago, fans will recognize plenty of familiar faces when the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet on Feb. 7.
Six players with Steelers ties are expected to take the field in either red or pewter on Super Bowl Sunday, with the two most notable examples being Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and Kansas City running back Le’Veon Bell.
Both missed their respective championship games due to injury, but could return to health in time for the Super Bowl with two weeks to recover.
In addition, the Chiefs also boast guard Stefen Wisniewski and punter Dustin Colquitt, who both spent time in Pittsburgh earlier this season.
Wisniewski is in line to make his second-straight Super Bowl start in response to injuries along the Chiefs’ offensive line suffered Sunday, while Colquitt is on Kansas City’s practice squad.
Former Steelers defensive back Ross Cockrell and nose tackle Steve McLendon will take the field for the Buccaneers defensively.
But Tampa Bay’s Pittsburgh connections do not stop on the field, as the Buccaneers will also have six coaches with Steeler ties on the sideline for the big game, including head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians, who is in his second season in Tampa, spent eight years in Pittsburgh, serving as wide receivers coach (2004-06) before being elevated to offensive coordinator (2007-11).
Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played under Arians in Pittsburgh, and had three separate stints with the Steelers as a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger.
Tampa Bay also boasts assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin, outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El and assistant coach Tom Moore.
Even with the Steelers at home watching along with the rest of the country, Pittsburgh should have no shortage of rooting interests when the Chiefs meet the Buccaneers in Tampa in two weeks time.
Report: Steelers OL Coach Candidate Hank Fraley Retained in Detroit
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Hank Fraley will reportedly be retained as the Detroit Lions’ offensive line coach, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett.
Some good news for Lions fans still coming to grips with the news Matthew Stafford likely will be playing elsewhere in 2021:— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) January 24, 2021
Respected OL coach Hank Fraley will be back with the team, and Dave Fipp could be joining him as ST coach now that the Eagles are letting him interview.
Pittsburgh reportedly interviewed Fraley last Thursday for their offensive line coach vacancy, but he has opted to remain with Detroit under new head coach Dan Campbell.
Fraley was a standout at Robert Morris before signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2000. He was waived prior to the season, but played ten seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams. Fraley has spent the last two seasons as Detroit’s offensive line coach.
Pittsburgh’s search for their next offensive coordinator and line coach continues. The Steelers chose not to retain Randy Fichtner and Shaun Sarrett earlier this month.
Report: Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey Has Told Teammates He’ll Retire
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has told teammates that he will retire, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Former Steelers guard Ramon Foster, now of DK Pittsburgh Sports, reported on Jan. 12 that Pouncey was “50-50” on whether he would return for the 2021 season.
The 31-year-old Pouncey just finished his 11th season in the NFL, all of which have been with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has one year remaining on his contract, which would pay him $14.475 million if he returns. Just $6.475 million of that is guaranteed. The Steelers would save $8 million in cap space if he retires.
Pouncey made the Pro Bowl for the ninth time in 2020 and has also been a five-time Associated Press All-Pro. He was also a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team, largely giving him Hall of Fame credentials.\