COLUMN: Steelers Season Outlook 

Roethlisberger's Return, keys for Pittsburgh to get back to postseason

It’s a great feeling to see football on TV again. The Steelers football season is upon us, and their quest for a seventh Super Bowl title begins. The Steelers went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the second season in a row, but arguably the biggest story line going into the season is the return of Ben Roethlisberger. He’s coming back from an elbow injury he suffered in Week 2 last season, which required a season ending surgery. I have three keys that can lead to a successful season for the Black and Gold.

Ben Roethlisberger

This key is a no-brainer. Ben is a 38-year-old quarterback who is coming off a major elbow surgery. The real question is how effective will he be? In camp, Roethlisberger threw the ball well, and said he is throwing without pain for the first time in years.

In 2018, he led the NFL in passing yards, but also interceptions. Since the defense should be good this season, he should not have to win every game, himself. He just can’t lose games. Can he be rusty the first few games of the season? Yes. He can still lead game winning drives at the end of games. If he reduces the interceptions from 2018, he will be just fine. This should make him a candidate to win the Comeback Player of The Year award.  

The Run Game

The Steelers run game was bad in 2019. They were 29th in the National Football League in total rushing offense. This number must improve if the Steelers want to make it back to the playoffs.

James Conner is playing for his future in Pittsburgh and he wants to remain a Steeler. The issue for Conner has been injuries. If he can stay healthy, he will be a solid running back. He proved that in 2018. If the Steelers have a good running game, this takes the pressure off Roethlisberger to throw the ball. 

Benny Shell showed flashes of success in his rookie season. Could he be a good back up to Conner? Jaylen Samuels will be in the mix too. It’s going to be interesting to see how they use rookie Anthony McFarland Jr., as well. All the running backs need to contribute to have a successful run game.

Bud Dupree and Terrell Edmunds

Dupree and Edmunds are the biggest question marks for the Steelers’ defense. Dupree had his best season as a Steeler in 2019. He collected a career high 11.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. Dupree is playing under the franchise tag this season.

The question is, will we get the Bud Dupree of 2019 or the Bud Dupree pre-2019? Last season, Dupree and T.J. Watt were the best duo of outside linebackers in the league. If they can repeat, it will be a long day for opposing quarterbacks.

Edmunds is going into his third season and has not made any spectacular plays. His brother Trey, who was a running back, had more interceptions than he had last season. If Edmunds can lift his game in 2020, he will compliment Minkah Fitzpatrick nicely.  

I think the Steelers will have a successful season. My prediction is a record of 11-5 and spot in the AFC Wild Card round.

Roethlisberger is back and he’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder. The defense is a top five-unit and is going to have dominating performances. Sit back, relax and it’s time for Steeler football.