The Pittsburgh Steelers made some big changes in free agency and the NFL Draft. Could they improve on both offense and defense this year?
The Steelers didn’t have the most exciting offseason in 2020. They were without their first-round pick that they used to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, and they weren’t able to land any stars in free agency. But despite their modest free agent moves and adequate draft class, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Pittsburgh could be an improved team on both sides of the ball in 2020.
Gone from the team this year are Javon Hargrave, Ramon Foster, B.J. Finney, Mark Barron, and Tyler Matakevich. Hargrave is clearly their most notable loss, and he was coming off arguably his best season in 2019. Meanwhile, Foster elected to hang up his cleats after a shaky 2019 performance and Mark Barron was let go due to his hefty price tag.
B.J. Finney was a solid backup interior offensive lineman with experience at both guard and center, but Pittsburgh failed to retain him, as he signed with the Seahawks this offseason. Matakevich was one of Pittsburgh’s best special teams players, but the contract the Bills offered him was much more than the Steelers were willing to pay.
These losses could prove to have an impact on the team, but none of them were likely devastating – even the loss of Hargrave. This is because Pittsburgh’s additions in 2020 will far outweigh their losses.
For starters, Ben Roethlisberger is set to return to the field after landing on IR with an elbow injury he suffered in Week 2 against the Seahawks last year. In his absence, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges led a non-existent offense to finish as the 30th ranked unit in the league last year. Ben’s presence on the field should prove to be greater than all of Pittsburgh’s offseason losses combined.
But the additions don’t stop there. Stephon Tuitt was having a Pro Bowl year before tearing his pectoral muscle. He should more than mask the loss of Hargrave on the defensive line, assuming he stays healthy. In addition, the acquisition of players like Eric Ebron, Chase Claypool, Stefen Wisniewski, Alex Highsmith, and Anthony McFarland should provide a boost to this team in 2020.
On top of all of this, Pittsburgh was able to retain Bud Dupree for the 2020 season. Assuming the Steelers stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe that Pittsburgh can’t be a better team on both sides of the ball this year. Though the unreal number of takeaways will be hard for the defense to repeat, the Steelers could be an even more efficient defense with the return of Tuitt and the continued development of players like Devin Bush, Terrell Edmunds, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Of course, injuries could always get in the way of this happening. But assuming the Steelers can keep their star players healthy this year, I believe Pittsburgh could be an improved team both offensively and defensively in 2020.