2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Key Additions: DL Chris Wormley (via trade from Baltimore), FB Derek Watt (via free agency), OL Stefen Wisniewski (via free agency), TE Eric Ebron (via free agency), DE Cavon Walker (via XFL), OT Javon Jones (via XFL)
Key Departures: OG Ramon Foster (retirement), DT Javon Hargrave (via free agency), LB Mark Barron (waived), LB Anthony Chickillo (waived), C B.J. Finney (via free agency), CB Artie Burns (via free agency) TE Nick Vannett (via free agency)
Draft Haul: WR Chase Claypool, LB Alex Highsmith, RB Anthony McFarland, OG Kevin Dotson, S Antoine Brooks Jr, DT Carlos Davis
Outlook: Last season the Steelers missed the playoffs for back-to-back seasons for just the second time since 2000. This was due most in part to what can only be described as poor QB play. Franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger, went down in the second game of the season with an elbow injury and the dynamic duo of Devlin “Duck” Hodges and Mason Rudolph combined for 18 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and nine fumbles in his absence.
Roethlisberger’s healthy return to the field is by far the biggest addition for the Steelers. Other players that will need to regain health (and the Steelers hope production) would be fourth year standouts James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. After breakout seasons in 2017 that saw them amass nearly 3,000 combined yards and 20 touchdown, the two combined for 1200 yards and ten touchdowns in injury plagued seasons.
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The Steelers add Claypool, McFarland, and Ebron to a mix that includes the aforementioned weapons and emerging wide receivers Diontae Johnson and James Washington who turned in admirable seasons given their deficient quarterback play. Their offensive line still has stalwarts Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, and Maurkice Pouncey. Wisniewski and Dotson will compete for starting jobs with incumbents Matt Feiler and Zach Banner to round out a top 10 unit.
Defensively, the Steelers were exceptional last season and there is little reason to believe that will change. The loss of Hargrave to the Eagles will hurt but former Raven Chris Wormley has proven an adequate NFL starter. The group is built on a pass rush that includes DPOY candidate T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree who returns on the franchise tag. The group also welcomes back Stephon Tuitt who missed 10 games last season.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, whom the Steelers acquired in exchange for their 2020 first round pick, leads a secondary that includes former Browns standout Joe Haden, third year safety Terrell Edmunds, and corners Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton. It is a formidable group but the weakest of what figures to be a top 10 defense again.
The Steelers will go as far as Big Ben’s health goes. Don’t be surprised to see them hunting for a playoff spot come December. Remember, the Ravens eliminated them in the last week of the 2019 NFL season with You, me, and Dupree at QB.