The Steelers have all the makings of a darkhorse contender

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks to Ben Roethlisberger #7 (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks to Ben Roethlisberger #7 (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

While 2019 was one of the worst years in recent Steelers history, there is a lot to look forward to in the Steel City in 2020.

Although it felt like the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the worst teams in the NFL, head coach Mike Tomlin actually led his group to an 8-8 season. After star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down for the season, Pittsburgh still competed each and every week until it was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in Week 17.

With the 2020 season right around the corner, there is a buzz surrounding Tomlin’s squad. Big Ben is back healthy, the young stars are a year older and the always competitive AFC North is up for grabs.

Offensively, Pittsburgh has plenty of talent to go around. JuJu Smith-Schuster was expected to take the next step as a No. 1 receiver, but his progress was halted without Roethlisberger under center. With more pressure on a banged-up JuJu, young wide outs James Washington and Diontae Johnson got a chance to shine and make the most of a bad quarterback situation.

In the backfield, James Conner also missed time because of injury. With him coming back healthy and the development of young backs Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh has a formidable running back group that can catch passes and tote the rock in the running game.

Defensively is where the Steelers made their bones in 2019. On the front end, Bud Dupree, Cam Heyward and TJ Watt terrorized every offensive line they faced, and will look to do the same in 2020. In the middle of the defense, rookie Devin Bush showed why he was worth a top-10 pick at linebacker.

The secondary also played a key role for Pittsburgh. Midseason acquisition Minkah Fitzpatrick was one of the best safeties in the league in 2019. Joe Haden returned to his Pro Bowl status at corner, and Terrell Edmunds had an improved second year as a safety/sub-linebacker hybrid. All of these guys will be back as well.

The roster is in prime position to compete in the AFC in 2020. As long as Ben stays healthy under center, all of the young guys on offense will take the next step in their development. If the defense maintains its production from last season or even improves, we are looking at one of the most underrated teams in the league.

Next. What Myles Garrett contract means for TJ Watt negotiations. dark