Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Season Preview

Russell S. Baxter

Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Season Preview

By Scott Piker

Special to Pro Football Guru

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell just short of another AFC North title in 2018. The Black and Gold said goodbye to a pair of offensive stars during the offseason in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. The defense has not been the same since linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered his near career-ending injury. It's time for a rebuild in the Steel City. But not so fast. Head coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the organization still has division title and Super Bowl championship on their minds. A combination of veterans with playoff experience and youth could be the right formula to make it happen.

Offense: Ben Roethlisberger enters season No. 16 as the franchise quarterback. Thoughts of retirement this offseason were off target. The weapons in the Steelers’ passing game will look a bit different. With Brown traded to the Oakland Raiders, third-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will be the number one target for Roethlisberger. The tight end could be used a lot more in 2019. Veteran Vance McDonald will see many more opportunities following the departure of local kid Jesse James to the Detroit Lions. Third-year running back James Conner knows he is the guy in the Steelers backfield. If he felt any pressure about his job status in 2018, he won't in 2019. Jaylen Samuels will be the backup.

Defense: The defense needs to get back to the 'Steel Curtain' days of old. The Black and Gold will miss Ryan Shazier again in 2019, but they might have found its next leader in rookie Devin Bush out of Michigan. The price was high to trade up ten spots in April's NFL Draft but the need outweighed the cost. The secondary is always a concern. Veteran cornerback Joe Haden is in the final year of his contract he signed after being released by the Cleveland Browns. Injuries have derailed Haden's career and he has already missed time in training camp due to an ankle injury. The defensive line will continue to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Defensive end Cameron Heyward leads the defensive front.

Special Teams: Kicking at Heinz Field is always an adventure. Chris Boswell seemed to have mastered it in 2017 and was rewarded with a multi-year contract. In 2018, he did not live up to the contract and struggled all season. If Boswell doesn't find the magic from 2017, he will be out of work.

Prediction: The AFC North is going to be a difficult division to predict in 2019. The Browns are on the rise. The Baltimore Ravens feel they can repeat as division champions. The Steelers believe they are still the team to beat. The schedule is difficult to start. A season-opening trip to the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. A second-place schedule is an advantage in 2019, but there are still tough games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. A season sweep of Baltimore and Cleveland should be enough to win the division, but don't expect that to happen.

Win-Loss Record: 9-7 (2nd Place, AFC North, reach playoffs)

Scott Piker (@scottpikersport) is a freelance sports writer based in his hometown of Madison, Ohio. He has written for sports websites based locally in Northeast Ohio and nationally. Scott has also served as a television sports producer for two Cleveland television stations, WEWS and WOIO/WUAB. He has over 21 years of multimedia experience in television, radio, print and digital media.


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