9. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the AFC North
Much of the speculation around the NFL season rests in the seemingly inevitable battle of football’s current giants — the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens. What people seem to have mostly forgotten, if not all-together overlooked, is that the Pittsburgh Steelers were but one win from replacing the almost conference champions (Tennessee Titans) in the playoffs.
A season ago, the Steelers were a team that was as ravaged by significant injury as any team in recent memory. The team suffered a major blow when in Week 2 when they learned that franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be placed on Inured Reserve and miss the season. But the hits kept coming after that, too. The team also lost backup quarterback Mason Rudolph for a period of time, forcing them to play undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges in eight games.
Beyond the quarterback position, star running back James Connor also missed six games due to injury, while backup Jaylen Samuels missed two. The team also saw games missed from their top three pass-catchers with JuJu Smith-Schuster missing four, James Washington missing one (and parts of a couple of others), and tight end Vance McDonald missing two games as well.
The defense, on the other hand, was still one of the league’s best, surrendering the sixth-fewest points over the course of the year.
With the return of Roethlisberger, the rising stardom of defensive standouts TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and a slew of savvy offseason moves to add depth along the offensive line, the pass-catching ranks, and on the defense — the Steelers are in prime position to be big risers in 2020.
One may not anticipate a repeat of 2019 for the Baltimore Ravens and specifically, of quarterback Lamar Jackson. A step back for Baltimore, a huge leap forward for Pittsburgh, and you have a new AFC North Champion in 2020.