The Steelers made it a point to address their offense this offseason. Here’s why Bleacher Report ranks Ben Roethlisberger’s supporting cast as just 18th in the league.
With Ben Roethlisberger out for the sesaon, the Steelers were all about defense in 2019. Led by T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh’s defense finished the season top six in nearly every statistical department despite a rough start to the sesaon against the Patriots and Seahawks.
There is little question that Pittsburgh’s offense is going to improve this season with Big Ben at the helm, as Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges proved to be major disappointments trying to hold down the fort last year. However, despite the Steelers efforts to give Roethlisberger added weapons in 2020, Bleacher Report ranked his supporting cast as just 18th in the league. Here’s some of what Kristopher Knox had to say:
"If Ben Roethlisberger returns to form following elbow surgery and can stay healthy, the Steelers could have one of the better offenses in the AFC. The biggest question is at running back, where James Conner took a major step back last season. After having a Pro Bowl campaign in 2018, Conner was decidedly average last year. Between JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and rookie Chase Claypool, the Steelers have plenty of receiving talent. They also have one of the better tight end duos in Vance McDonald and free-agent addition Eric Ebron. With Roethlisberger pulling the trigger, this receiving core could go from average to elite in a hurry."
Knox’s ranking is a slight step up from Pittsburgh’s 21st ranked supporting cast from just a year ago. He points to James Conner as a bit of a weak link on the Steelers offense. But while Conner may have taken a step back in 2019, the Steelers skill players should be much improved this year.
JuJu Smith-Schuster will be playing at full strength in 2020 – something he wasn’t able to do much of last season – while Diontae Johnson and James Washington each showed a lot of promise last season.
Perhaps the biggest improvements, however, will be adding much better depth. Last year, the Steelers were forced to deploy players like Ryan Switzer, Trey Edmunds, Johnny Holton, and Nick Vannett on offense. This year should be a different story. In their stead, Pittsburgh has added skill players like Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron, and Anthony McFarland.
On paper, this is no doubt a step up from the underwhelming skill players they had just a season ago. Though the Steelers may not have a true number one option like some other teams, their depth now runs deep.
If Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy throughout the course of the season, I expect the Steelers supporting cast to be elevated much highest than this. Time will tell if they have the talent it takes to get the job done.