Pittsburgh Steelers: 2020 Schedule Preview

*=Primetime

W=Win

L=Loss

*Week 1: @ New York Giants (W, 27-20)- 1-0

The Breakdown: The Steelers get to kick off their season in a Monday Night primetime game against rookie head coach Joe Judge, tremendous! Daniel Jones had a deceptively bad rookie campaign in that simply looking at the box score would give the improper notion that he played well. If you look at the tape and the advanced metrics, that is not the case, and he simply does not have the tools to thrive against this vaunted defense.

What Will Happen: Pittsburgh will rely heavily on the run game to ease Big Ben back after his season-ending elbow surgery last season. After allowing the Giants to keep the game close early, Ben will start slinging that well-rested arm. James Conner will have a monster first half and Diontae Johnson will have a monster second half. Andrew Thomas will have a rough inaugural game, having to face off against a defensive line that will send him, along with Daniel Jones, to oblivion.

Week 2: Denver Broncos (L, 38-28)- 1-1

The Breakdown: Luckily, Pittsburgh does not have to worry about playing in Mile High this year, but I do not think it will have much bearing on the outcome. The Broncos offseason acquisitions, along with the promise of second-year quarterback Drew Lock, will prove to be too much for the Steelers to handle. Over the past few seasons, there has consistently been one second-year quarterback that lights up the field.

We had Carson Wentz, who was an MVP until an unfortunate injury derailed his season, then Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, who both won MVP in their respective sophomore seasons. Not to say Lock is in line to win MVP, but if Kyler Murray is not that guy, Lock most certainly will be.

What Will Happen: Pittsburgh, like in Week 1, will rely heavily on the run game coming out. However, contrary to Week 1, they will not be able to keep pace with the Broncos offense. Drew Lock will be enjoying his new battalion of weapons including Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and that three-headed monster in the backfield.

They will dominate the Steelers’ interior defensive line early with their running back depth and the Pittsburgh’s defensive backs late with that outstanding young receiver core. I foresee big games for Phillip Lindsay and K.J. Hamler. Although Pittsburgh will come out of the game with a loss, we will see flashes of star potential from rookie wideout Chase Claypool, which should be a sign of encouragement for the future.

Week 3: Houston Texans (W, 41-24)- 2-1

The Breakdown: As a Knicks fan, I can tell you that with extreme confidence that a fish rots from the head down. Since taking on the role of general manager, Bill O’Brien has shown nothing short of utter incompetence when it comes to roster moves. It is catching up with him, and it will manifest on the gridiron this year. The continued neglect of Deshaun Watson’s needs is a travesty, resulting in the wasting of his prime. The declining morale of the team will create a rift between the players and the front office, and the Steelers will reap the benefits in Week 3.

What Will Happen: Although Deshaun Watson was stripped of his favorite weapon, he is Deshaun Watson nonetheless. Watson will show fight, but Pittsburgh’s defensive line is going to dominate the trenches. Investing $22 million in your left tackle is not enough to stop the devastating effects of T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Bud Dupree. Big Ben will finally let it fly out of the gate, and it will manifest in a high-scoring outing for their offense and another huge game from Diontae Johnson. Eric Ebron will make his first trip to the end zone as well.

Week 4: @ Tennessee Titans (L, 31-21)- 2-2

The Breakdown: Tennessee was smart enough to see that Derrick Henry was not the catalyst for their success last year as it appeared, and they displayed that by paying the man who was. Ryan Tannehill had one of the most efficient stretches of quarterback play the game has ever seen in the latter part of last season and I expect him to continue that success with the development of his young formidable weapon, A.J. Brown. Pittsburgh will put up a fight, but Tennessee will grab a win on their home field in Week 4.

What Will Happen: The Titans will try and run down Pittsburgh’s throat early but to no avail. The Steelers will begin to get complacent and overfeed James Conner and Benny Snell as well. They will see some success to start, but after halftime, it will all change. Tannehill will begin tossing the ball more often and the Steelers will get caught playing catch-up. After creating a sizable lead, Derrick Henry will take over to close the game. A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry will perform late in the game.

Week 5: Philadelphia Eagles (W, 31-28)- 3-2

The Breakdown: A battle for Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania state rivalry is not as rich as one would think, but this game outta make for a good one regardless. The selection of Jalen Hurts in the second round was cause for unrest amongst the Philly faithful. Personally, I think if they have a plan, Hurts can bring a whole new and unique dimension to their offense, therefore making the pick more than worth it. This game will be a shootout, but the Steelers will emerge victorious in the end.

What Will Happen: By Week 5, the Eagles will have already begun implementing Jalen Hurts into the offense. We will see him run the option, and throw some passes here and there. We will also see an emerging Jalen Reagor finally getting the above-average quarterback play he deserves in a system built for his success. He will take advantage of an effective, albeit slow, Steelers secondary with his blazing speed. After a sluggish start to the season, JuJu Smith-Schuster will begin to see less attention due to the emergence of Diontae Johnson and will break out in Week 5. 

Week 6: Cleveland Browns (W, 27-17)- 4-2

The Breakdown: There is no better way to gain some confidence by kicking off our divisional rivalries with a home game against the Browns, the laughing stock of the NFL for years, but after a promising rookie campaign from Baker Mayfield and a plethora of offseason acquisitions, they expected big things last season. Just as the expectations hit an all-time high, Cleveland fell short in typical Browns fashion. Aside from a good draft (which has never proved fruitful for the team in recent history), I foresee another defeatist season for the Browns and a Steelers’ win in Week 6.

What Will Happen: Tensions will be high in this game due to the preceding games from last season in which Mason Rudolph was decapitated. The Steelers will channel that angst and come out thrashing, leading to a comfortable first-half lead. Having learned from their past mistakes, Pittsburgh will not sit on their lead, but they will aim to push it. I see big games from Chase Claypool and James Washington due to the Browns’ aversion to letting JuJu or Diontae beat them. Cleveland will rally late, but it will not be enough to overcome their early struggles.

Week 7: @ Baltimore Ravens (L, 35-13)- 4-3

The Breakdown: Here it is, the big game… The Ravens. Their ability to tailor their offense around Lamar Jackson’s unique skill set amounted to 14 regular-season wins, including 12 straight wins and a bye week to begin the playoffs last season. In their first matchup last season, Earl Thomas concussed Mason Rudolph to the point of incapacitation, thereby setting him on a course that will lead him straight out of the league.

In their second matchup, the Ravens dominated the Steelers with their backups and officially spoiled their playoff hopes. Pittsburgh is better-equipped to handle Baltimore this year, but the Steelers’ offense will not be able to outplay that Ravens’ defense on the road.

What Will Happen: In classic Ben Roethlisberger fashion, he will have one of those road games where he is virtually ineffective. The black and gold brigade will fall into a hole early on account of Big Ben’s turnovers. In an attempt to throw themselves out of the hole, they will only dig themselves deeper.

The Ravens will run the ball efficiently with Mark Ingram and sprinkle in a few big pass plays to Mark Andrews. J.K. Dobbins will have a big game receiving out of their backfield, gashing the middle of the Steelers’ defense due to poor game-planning from defensive coordinator Keith Butler. After this game, Ben will contemplate retirement once again, but this time, it will come true.

Week 8: BYE (L)

The Breakdown: If you are wondering why I chalked down the bye week as a loss, it is because all of the negative publicity created by Ben’s retirement talk will carry on into the week. Having no game to divert attention, the media is going to have a field week, or two weeks rather, with Ben’s pejorative PR. On the bright side, it is a blessing to have a bye week directly in the middle of the season.

Week 9: @ Dallas Cowboys (L, 30-28)- 4-4

The Breakdown: The Cowboys give you the same thing every year… neither failure nor success. Dallas very rarely has a bad season, but they have been immune to success for the past few decades as well. That being said, their A+ draft class gives those around the league reason to believe that will all change this year.

Almost every one of their draft selections was extremely high value in comparison to their pre-draft projection, and they, but more specifically Jerry Jones, should be commended for it. In conjunction with their premier draft class, the Cowboys’ dilemma regarding franchise quarterback Dak Prescott seems to have been solved with the addition of former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. The Steelers will keep this one close, but Dallas will prevail.

What Will Happen: Ezekiel Elliott will be ridden early and often, which will not amount to much success against Pittsburgh’s stout defensive line. Roethlisberger, disgruntled with his name being dragged through the mud by the media, will come out firing to JuJu Smith-Schuster, which will bring about an early Pittsburgh lead.

The Cowboys will make the necessary halftime adjustments and begin utilizing their receivers. The combination of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup will overwhelm the Steelers’ secondary, bringing Dallas back into the game. This contest will be close towards the end, but will ultimately be decided by a game-winning field goal from Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein.

Week 10: Cincinnati Bengals (W, 24-20)- 5-4

The Breakdown: The only divisional opponent the Steelers have yet to face. The addition of Joe Burrow, together with an all-around good draft, will be enough to propel the Bengals past mediocrity in the future, but not yet. Much like the Browns, the Bengals have also been the laughing stock of the league over the past couple of decades, and the Steelers were able to take full advantage of that. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, at least this year, that will not change. 

What Will Happen: This will be a textbook blue-collar AFC North matchup that will feature a good game from rising star quarterback Joe Burrow. After yet another failed attempt to run the ball on this Steelers defensive line, Burrow will start to shower A.J. Green with targets. Green will have a monster two-touchdown game, but the Steelers’ steady control of the game clock will thrust them to victory. James Conner will have a huge game in the rushing category to go along with a huge game from Jaylen Samuels in the checkdown game. Chase Claypool will find the end zone as well.

Week 11: @ Jacksonville Jaguars (W, 21-10)- 6-4

The Breakdown: It seems that every time the Steelers face off against the Jaguars, Ben Roethlisberger turns into the quarterback formerly known as Ben Roethlisberger. He just cannot seem to get his act together when he plays this team, especially in the first half. However, seeing the departure of key defensive players like Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith among others, working with the fact that their starting quarterback is Gardner Minshew, the Steelers actually have a chance of coming out victorious. 

What Will Happen: Like the majority of Pittsburgh’s opponents to this point in the season, the Jaguars will fail to run the ball on this stacked defensive line. Jacksonville will then place the burden on the shoulders of Minshew to drag them out of the hole, something of which he is not capable. He’ll make errors, and the opposing defense will capitalize. In an attempt to avoid the atrocities of the past when facing this squad, the Steelers’ offense will focus primarily on ground and pound, with some big plays mixed in throughout. We will see another stellar showing from their backfield.

*Week 12: Baltimore Ravens (W, 27-24)- 7-4

The Breakdown: The Steelers’ chance for redemption is one they cannot and will not pass up. Roethlisberger will prove that his poor play in their first matchup was a testament to the location, not to his diminishing abilities. Along with Roethlisberger’s notoriously bad games comes his notorious ability to bounce back, and we will see that in a Week 12 primetime game.

What Will Happen: Ben Roethlisberger will come out guns-a-blazin’ with a chip on his shoulder. We will see big games from the entirety of the Steelers’ offense from JuJu, to Johnson, to Washington, to Claypool, to Ebron. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense will keep a steady pace in the ground game to start, but when they need to start slinging the ball, those opportunities will not be there. Pittsburgh’s secondary will show up big time in this one.

Week 13: Vs Washington Redskins (W, 27-14)- 8-4

The Breakdown: I may be in the minority on this one, but I believe Dwayne Haskins has the potential to be a future star. He had a rough go in his rookie season, but I think he will make large strides going forward in his career, especially given he has a young star receiver in Terry McLaurin to develop alongside him.

Washington’s gifted young edge tandem of Chase Young and Montez Sweat will also prove to be a worthy investment. Nevertheless, they are not ready for success just yet, and a hungry Steelers team fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch is bound to give them problems.

What Will Happen: Pittsburgh will have a steady balance of run and pass in their gameplan whilst preserving Ben Roethlisberger’s arm for the playoffs. We will see solid games all around for their offense with an especially big game from Chase Claypool. The Redskins will feed Derrius Guice early, which will cause them to fall behind. Dwayne Haskins will lead the team on a late run with an emphasis on Terry McClaurin and Derrius Guice in the receiving game, but it will all be in vain. 

*Week 14: @ Buffalo Bills (L, 42-20)- 8-5

The Breakdown: The first game against the Ravens aside, this will be the Steelers’ worst game of the season. After two decades of sustained success by the New England Patriots, the AFC East is up for grabs, and the Bills are determined to grab that torch and never look back. I would argue that Sean McDermott has done almost as good a job tailoring this offense around Josh Allen as John Harbaugh has done with Lamar Jackson.

Allen will have a myriad of weapons at his disposal, including up and coming dual-threat running back Devin Singletary and recently acquired star receiver Stefon Diggs. That concoction of offensive weapons supplementing that stupendous defense will give Pittsburgh nightmares in a primetime game.

What Will Happen: The Bills will control this game from start to finish. They will step on the Steelers’ throats right off the bat and will never let up. Josh Allen will throw for 250 yards with an additional 100 yards on the ground, Devin Singletary will have a big game out of the backfield, and the Steelers’ overemphasis on Stefon Diggs will allow John Brown to have a field day in the back end of that Steelers defense. Pittsburgh will never get the ball rolling due to great pressure from the Bills’ defensive line and outstanding pass coverage from Tre’Davious White.

*Week 15: @ Cincinnati Bengals (W, 30-17)- 9-5

The Breakdown: Mirroring their first outing, the Steelers will have no problem handling this Bengals team. Joe Burrow will have made steady improvements since the first game but still not enough to overcome a team fighting for a spot in the postseason, not to mention Pittsburgh would like to make an example of them in primetime.

What Will Happen: The Steelers will get out to an early lead and never look back. Riding the backfield throughout the game will be the key to helping rest Ben Roethlisberger and prepare for the playoffs. There will not be much production out of the Steelers’ offense outside of James Conner and Benny Snell. Burrow will have a better game than last time and will begin to spread the ball around the receiver core, but his lack of help outside of that receiver core will become apparent.

Week 16: Indianapolis Colts (W, 21-20)- 10-5

The Breakdown: The two key offseason acquisitions the Colts made were defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and quarterback Philip Rivers. I think people are missing the point when evaluating the Colts because they see the loss of a first-round pick and the addition of an older quarterback as staying stagnant.

That could not be further from the truth. Buckner is a young and ever-ascending talent on an already-great defense and the one glaring issue Rivers faced with the Chargers was a lack of offensive line play, which will not be a problem with the Colts. Despite all that, the Steelers are still fighting for that playoff spot and will not let this one slip through their fingers.

What Will Happen: This game will be a bit too close for comfort. Pittsburgh’s plan to mitigate Big Ben’s fatigue will come close to backfiring. They will give the lion’s share of the offensive duties to the backfield again, but DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard will have something to say about it, and Pittsburgh will barely come out by the skin of their teeth.

Jaylen Samuels will have a big game receiving out of the backfield, Benny Snell will play very well, and Eric Ebron will find the end zone against his former team. Rivers will have a good game to start, but turnovers will plague the Colts late. This Steelers’ win will lock up their spot in the postseason.

Week 17: @ Cleveland Browns (L, 35-23)- 10-6

The Breakdown: The final game of the season. The Browns are scorned at the last outing against us and are set on showing us what for. Seeing as how the Steelers have nothing to play for thanks to their playoff spot, they decide to rest their starters.

What Will Happen: The Browns will get the chance to exercise revenge on Mason Rudolph while he is filling in for Ben Roethlisberger. The fans will enjoy seeing Myles Garrett sack him twice en route to a blowout win. James Washington will have a big game with Rudolph at the helm, given the team’s decision to rest JuJu and Diontae. Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. will have a field day against our second-string defensive backs, and Nick Chubb will have a phenomenal game as well.

Final Record Projection: 10-6

Miscellaneous Predictions 

  • Steeler Nation will regain confidence in James Conner
  • Chase Claypool will have a solid rookie campaign
  • Diontae Johnson will pass JuJu Smith-Schuster for WR1
  • James Washington will disappoint again
  • Eric Ebron will not be as effective as we had hoped
  • Kevin Dotson will start at guard later in the season
  • The team will make a move regarding the QBs
  • Randy Fichtner/Keith Butler will be fired 
  • Steelers will lose in the divisional round
  • Ben Roethlisberger will retire 

 

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