The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger returning in 2020, but that didn’t stop a panel of experts at ESPN from ranking Pittsburgh in the middle of the pack in their latest power rankings.
It wasn’t a surprise to anyone to see that the Steelers fell short of the playoffs yet again in 2019. Despite one of the league’s most dominant defensive units in the second half of the season, their offensive struggles were prevalent.
As the old saying goes, “A team is only as good as your quarterback.” This couldn’t be more true when it came to the Steelers last year. A terrific terrific defensive performance was thrown down the drain with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges leading the charge.
Now, Ben Roethlisberger is back, and the Steelers are ready to make this a season to remember. However, Big Ben’s presence apparently isn’t enough for ESPN to think of Pittsburgh as more than just an average NFL team.
ESPN recently released their post-draft power rankings for the upcoming season. The voting panel – consisting of more than 80 writers, editors, and TV personalities – ranked the Steelers as just the 14th best team in the NFL.
In their rankings, ESPN also included post-draft winners for each team. Here’s what Steelers reporter, Brooke Pryor, had to say:
"Players who benefited: QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph.The quarterbacks came away from the draft with new playmakers and more job security. Roethlisberger got Martavis Bryant 2.0 with WR Chase Claypool, and the team didn’t draft a quarterback, further solidifying Rudolph’s job as the backup and potential heir apparent whenever Roethlisberger retires. Rudolph had a rocky 2019 season, but the team believes in developing him with the help of new QB coach Matt Canada. All of the moves signal that they believe Roethlisberger will be at full strength whenever the season starts, and they want to make his job as easy as possible."
Both Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph indeed benefited from this draft. Ben received a fresh, new pair of weapons in WR Chase Claypool and RB Anthony McFarland. Rudolph might be even more relieved as the Steelers elected to ignore addressing the quarterback position for at least one more season – solidifying his role as the number two passer again in 2020.
But there’s a bigger issue at hand than the winners after the draft. The fact that ESPN ranked Pittsburgh as just the 14th best team heading into the new football season is a bit embarrassing, considering the circumstances.
This year, Pittsburgh added contributors like Eric Ebron, Chase Claypool, Stefen Wisniewski, in addition to Roethlisberger and Stephon Tuitt returning to the field. Their biggest loss was Javon Hargrave, but that seems minuscule compared to their additions in 2020.
Ahead of the Steelers in the rankings were teams like the Buccaneers (7th), Titans (8th), Vikings (9th), Cowboys (10th), Bills (11th), Eagles (12th), and Colts (13th). While some of these teams deserve to be ranked ahead of Pittsburgh, there are others you could certainly make the case for the Steelers being a better team.
Regardless of ESPN’s rankings, we know that the Steelers should be a better team in 2020 in large part due to the return of Roethlisberger. As long as he is healthy, Pittsburgh could climb the in the power rankings as the season progresses.