TIOPS MOST INTRIGUING STORYLINES FOR THE STEELERS 2019 SEASON
No Antonio Brown, less turnovers for Ben Roethlisberger in 2019?
What will the loss of Antonio Brown mean for Ben Roethlisberger & Co? Even at age 37, Roethlisberger is primed to prove that the show goes on, even when you take a superstar talent like Brown out of the equation. Roethlisberger threw for 5,129 yards with 34 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2018. Anybody will sign up for those numbers again in 2019, but many in the organization believe Brown constantly taking plays off and running wrong routes, some believe on purpose, has led to a spike in Roethlisberger’s interception numbers the last two seasons. Steeler coaches believe Roethlisberger can drop the INT numbers by 4-5 this season.
James Conner destined for a great season, Jaylen Samuels a wildcard
James Conner will be a fantasy football favorite in 2019. Look for a 1,200 rushing yard type season with 65+ receptions. Conner has evolved into such a complete back, most notably in the area of pass blocking.
Conner is too good behind this O-line not to produce but do the Steelers have a sleeper in Jaylen Samuels?. Steelers coaches are adamant Samuels will be part of the game plan and the Steelers love the football IQ Samuels has in catching out of the backfield.
Little Concern about Smith-Schuster, but who steps up as the No. 2 and No. 3?
This talk that Juju Smith-Schuster was a product of Antonio Brown getting double coverage is garbage. Smith-Schuster is a legitimate No. 1 receiver and the eye test says it all. This is a receiver who can do it all, beat you with size, exceptional route running ability and smarts. That won’t go away with Brown gone and Smith-Schuster should put up another 100 catch type season.
Who steps up as the legitimate No. 2 and No. 3 receiver is another story. Can James Washington do it under the lights and is there a big enough trust level yet between the coaching staff and Washington? The preseason even showed it’s not there yet. Diontae Johnson is not in the plans to start, which puts the microscope on veteran Donte Moncrief who has developed a strong trust level with Ben Roethlisberger.
Is a 70 catch season on the horizon for Vance McDonald?
The tight end depth remains a major concern moving forward especially with the Steelers inability to address it, but no Antonio Brown means Vance McDonald’s target number could increase by 20-30 where a 70 catch season, barring health, should be an expectation.
Will Stephon Tuitt finally play up to his contract?
The combo of Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward should be one of the NFL’s best 1-2 punches on the defensive line but it just hasn’t played out that way on a weekly basis. This is the year where it has to happen and starting in week 1.
Heyward and Tuitt have a chance to impose their will on a Patriots offensive line in transition. Tuitt is so talented where it shouldn’t even be a question of him putting up a 9-10 sack season.
Great Intrigue with Linebacker Group
T.J. Watt is special and anything under a 10-11 sack season would be a major surprise. Devin Bush is going to be special and right away if the coaches take the training wheels off. There’s no reason to overthink things.
There’s a lot to be intrigued and excited about, including the addition of Mark Barron who along with Bush makes this a much more dynamic group. Pittsburgh has the makings of boasting their most imposing front-seven since the 2010 Steelers with the elephant in the room being outside backer Bud Dupree.
Let’s see if changes to the way he attacks the quarterback that Dupree showed in the preseason of getting to the inside, plays out in the preseason.
Cornerback position improved, Safety position a great mystery
What the Steelers have in Steven Nelson is up in the air but what the Steelers at least did with the Nelson signing was fill the No. 2 cornerback spot from bad to average. Pittsburgh improved at that spot which was a must in the off-season.
The safety position is amongst the great mysteries with this roster. While others may disagree, Steelers coaches believe they potentially have something special in Terrell Edmunds but the position could be the defenses’ Achilles heel starting in week 1 against the Patriots.
Tom Brady and Co will surely be attacking first-year safety Kameron Kelly tonight.
Is Chris Boswell back?
All the drama in 2018, the Steelers are playoff team if Chris Boswell does his job. Not a better test than tonight in Foxborough.
Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
Season Prediction: 10-6