2019 NFL Season Preview- Pittsburgh Steelers
In a year where the Steelers were Super Bowl favorites, the team stumbled down the stretch to miss the playoffs for the first time in five years.
After starting the season 7-2-1, Pittsburgh lost four of their last six games to finish a half game behind the Ravens for the AFC North title.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards and threw a career high 34 touchdowns, but also led the league with 16 interceptions. Running back Le'Veon Bell sat out the entire season due to a contract dispute. Tight end Vance McDonald was more comfortable in his second season in Pittsburgh and set career highs in receptions and receiving yards while tying his career best in touchdowns. Jesse James was average as the second tight end, but Xavier Grimble had a crucial lost fumble in a loss to Denver. Wide receiver Eli Rogers spent most of the year on the PUP list recovering from a torn ACL while Darrius Heyward-Bey had just one catch in 14 games. Justin Hunter landed on injured reserve after five games with a broken shoulder. Left guard Ramon Foster was okay but could be replaced by a younger BJ Finney next year. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert played just five games before a knee injury ended his season.
The defense was solid overall finishing sixth in total defense and tied for the league lead with 52 sacks, but finished 16th in scoring defense and were among the worst teams in the league at forcing turnovers. Nose tackle Javon Hargrave showed big improvement with a career high 6.5 sacks. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt had 5.5 sacks in 14 games. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree hasn't really lived up to his first round hype and the inside linebackers weren't difference makers. Cornerback Joe Haden was the lone bright spot in an otherwise mediocre secondary. Artie Burns was benched midseason and cemented himself as a first round bust. Coty Sensabaugh was alright, but shouldn't be a starter. Safety Sean Davis was inconsistent in his first year starting at free safety.
Kicker Chris Boswell struggled after signing his contract, making just 65% of his field goals and missing five extra points. Matt McCrane was signed for the season finale and made all three of his field goals. Punter Jordan Berry was inconsistent, as he has been the last four years.
The team had eight Pro Bowlers in running back James Connor, wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, center Maurkice Pouncey, right guard David DeCastro, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, and outside linebacker TJ Watt while Pouncey was named second team All-Pro. Connor was terrific replacing Le'Veon Bell, finishing with 973 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games. Brown was his usual productive self, but was held out of the season finale after going AWOL and feuding with teammates. Smith-Schuster finished fifth in the league with 1,426 receiving yards. Villanueva, Pouncey, and DeCastro are among the best in the league at their respective positions. Heyward had another strong season after recording eight sacks and 18 quarterback hits. Watt took a big step forward with a team high 13 sacks and tied for third in the league with six forced fumbles.
The rookie class produced just one fulltime starter, but the team thinks the rest of the group has starting potential. Safety Terrell Edmunds was thrust into a starting role and played more snaps than any Pittsburgh defender. Wide receiver James Washington had just 16 catches, but showed signs late that he could be a starter. Quarterback Mason Rudolph spent the year as the third stringer and never dressed for any games. Tackle Chukwuma Okorafor showed promise and could be the starting right tackle moving forward. Safety Marcus Allen dealt with injuries in training camp and struggled to catch up. Running back Jaylen Samuels started the final three games in place of an injured James Connor and played well.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the disappointing 9-6-1 season that was plagued by inconsistency and off the field drama, head coach Mike Tomlin has to keep the focus on the field and the locker room free of strife.
On August 11, wide receivers coach Darryl Drake passes away at age 62 as he was about to enter his second season with the team.
Notable Additions- WR Donte Moncrief, LB Mark Barron
Notable Departures- RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Justin Hunter, TE Jesse James, T Marcus Gilbert, DT LT Walton, LB Jon Bostic, CB Coty Sensabaugh, S Morgan Burnett
Steelers 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the 20th overall pick in the draft, the Steelers have to build up he roster if they ever expect to be in Super Bowl contention. Primarily at both linebacker spots and cornerback.
Bud Dupree hasn't developed the way the team had hoped. The team needs another high level pass rusher to compliment TJ Watt.
The team failed to draft Ryan Shazier's replacement last year after he suffered a spinal cord injury. They can't afford to miss outvon this years draft pool.
Artie Burns has been a disappointment and Joe Haden is entering the lastvyear of his contract. A suitable starter and depth is needed in the secondary.
On draft day, Pittsburgh traded up to the 10th overall pick with Denver to draft Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush. Bush was viewed as the top tackling middle linebacker in the draft, but lacks the ideal height for the position.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo- Dangerous after the catch, below average play strength
Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State- Rare height, questionable ball skills
Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky- Durable with good patience, limited speed and athleticism
Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan- Huge catch radius, poor play strength given size
Sutton Smith, OLB, Northern Illinois- Quick off the snap, lacks length as a tackler
Isaiah Boggs DT, Alabama- Built like a refrigerator, uses physicality over technique
Ulysees Gilbert III, ILB, Akron- Instinctive and smart, struggles in coverage
Derwin Gray, OT, Maryland- Great run blocker, struggles with speed
Devin Bush Highlights
What To Expect
The Steelers made some solid move in free agency and the draft, but they likely won't see much change in their win totals.
The offense overall needs more balance. Ben Roethlisberger is 37 and has to do a better job of cutting down his turnovers in crucial situations. James Connor showed he could handle the load of a starting running and Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell are nice complement backs. Zach Gentry looks to be a perfect fit for the two tight end sets the offense likes to use while Vance McDonald should continue to be a solid security blanket. It will be interesting to see how JuJu Smith-Schuster fairs as the No. 1 receiver now that Antonio Brown is gone. Donte Moncrief should be a good complement to Smith-Schuster on the outside while James Washington and a healthy Eli Rogers should provide nice depth. Villanueva, Pouncey, and DeCastro should remain solid while BJ Finney could supplant Ramon Foster at left guard and Chukwuma Okorafor appears to be the replacement for Marcus Gilbert at right tackle.
The defensive line looks to be on the same track with Cameron Hayward leading the group, but more is needed from Stephon Tuitt. TJ Watt should remain one of top edge rushers in the league, but he still needs a partner on the other side. With Ryan Shazier on the reserve/PUP list for the entire season, Devin Bush and Mark Barron will be tasked with manning the inside. The team hopes Justin Layne can emerge as the starter opposite Joe Haden, but the secondary still lacks sufficient depth overall. Terrell Edmunds got a lot of experience last season which will hopefully help him moving forward and Sean Davis has to have a bounce back year.
Looking at the questions surrounding the secondary, Pittsburgh will likely be in a season long battle with Cleveland, and the winner will come out as AFC North champs and the lone playoff team from the division.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7