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Is All Hope Lost for the Steelers Next Season?

March 15, 2019
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Is All Hope Lost for the Steelers Next Season?

This summer has seen two superstar playmakers leave the Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Brown has long been considered among the very best wide receivers in the league, notching nine touchdowns and 1200 yards or more in each of the last five seasons. Through injuries, Bell established himself as one of the most dynamic running backs with over 1900 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in 2014, 2016, and 2017.

Ultimately, however, neither player wanted to remain in Pittsburgh. Bell held out on a contract for the entirety of last season and didn’t play a single snap whereas Brown voiced his disgruntlement with the team many times. The redeeming factor of this offseason’s activity is that the Steelers have rid themselves of the drama: now the focus can return to football.

That said, they’re in a division that boasts a new superpower that looks to take the league by storm next season. They’ve remained rather coy in the market – but more active than usual – so do the Steelers have what it takes to return to the playoffs next season?

Times are changing in the AFC North

The Cincinnati Bengals don’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon, but the Cleveland Browns have suddenly become a superpower in the league. To follow up a 7-8-1 record last season, the Browns have gone out to acquire New York Giants stars Odell Beckham Jr and Olivier Vernon in an absolute steal of a trade as well as Sheldon Richardson and Kareem Hunt.

Already boasting a decent team on the rise that finally has a franchise-worthy quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the additions of these four star players has people seeing the Browns as a legitimate Super Bowl contender after spending 13 of the last 16 seasons last in the AFC North, currently fourth-favourites in the NFL betting at +700 to win the AFC Championship, with the Steelers back at +1000 and the Baltimore Ravens even further back at +1400.

The Steelers aren’t the only AFC North team to lose star players; the Baltimore Ravens will be losing many key pieces of their front seven, with C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Za’Darius Smith on their way out. Both the Steelers and Ravens appear to have taken a heavy hit this offseason, but neither team is hitting the panic button just yet.

Steelers ready for life without Bell and Brown

With Bell sitting at home with his feet up on the sofa, James Conner took his opportunity in the Steelers backfield with both hands. Through 13 games, Conner tore off 1470 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns at an average of 4.5 per carry and 9.0 per reception. If he can keep up these efforts, the Steelers won’t miss Bell and can look forward to watching the 23-year-old improve and evolve his game further.

In the passing game, Juju Smith-Schuster built on his 917-yard effort in 2017 with 1426 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. The only worry about Smith-Schuster is how he will handle being the number one receiver without Brown there to draw away safeties. So, the Steelers brought in deep-threat Donte Moncrief, who has averaged over 10 yards per reception in each of his five NFL seasons. For the Colts, Moncrief proved to be a real weapon for Andrew Luck, and while he inevitably struggled to see many quality chances with Blake Bortles at the Jaguars last season, there’s a hope that Ben Roethlisberger will be able to utilise the 25-year-old’s explosiveness.

The Steelers can also look forward to James Washington breaking out in 2019. Much of the discussion about Washington is that, in practice, he proves that he’s immensely talented, but that confidence has been an issue on the field. Expect him to greatly exceed his 16 receptions for 217 yards and a touchdown next season.

>Despite the doomsday headlines about Bell and Brown leaving the Steelers circulating, the offence is still very well equipped to hold its own next season, and the team should be capable of challenging for a place in the playoffs.

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2 Comments

  1. mm Rich Carey

    Nice to see some positives about the Steelers for a change. They can be better this year, as long as they stay Team oriented. Fans need to remember 1977 (disaster!) And what happened in 1978 (SB 13).

  2. mm Lou

    Steelers will be fighting the Bengals for last place for a long time and we can thank the way they pay scrubs like Dupree and refuse to upgrade areas of need through free agency. Not complaining though we have been spoiled slightly for a long time always the Patriots bitch cause they do fill needs but we had some good years!