The 2020 season hasn’t even begun, but already power rankings are underway. Here’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t highly favored.
We all know that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going nowhere fast in 2019. Despite one of the NFL’s most talented defenses and the only unit to boast three first-team All-Pro players last year, the Steelers were trapped in football limbo without Ben Roethlisberger leading the charge.
This year should be different. Javon Hargrave was the only key loss for the Steelers this offseason, and they added players who could play key roles like Eric Ebron, Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Wormley, and Chase Claypool. The biggest improvement, however, should prove to be going from a lackluster combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger.
But despite all of this positive change, power rankings haven’t been overly kind to the Steelers. According to the Touchdown Wire’s latest rankings, Pittsburgh comes in a just 13th on the list. Here’s what Doug Farrar had to say about their status:
"Last season, with Ben Roethlisberger missing all but 95 snaps with an elbow injury, the Steelers managed an 8-8 record despite the NFL’s worst quarterback situation. How? With a ferocious defense that led the NFL in pressure rate, generating quarterback pressure on 30.5% of its snaps. In addition, only the Patriots picked off more passes than Pittsburgh’s 20, and the early-season trade with the Dolphins for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick gave the Steelers what they’ve desperately needed since Troy Polamalu’s retirement — a top-ticket free safety who could shut things down in the deep third. One would assume that Roethlisberger, even at age 38 and having threatened retirement multiple times over the last few years, would be able to amass a few more wins with a defense like that, as opposed to whatever it is that Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges did."
Despite Farrar’s positive words for the Steelers and their improvements in 2020, he still has 12 teams ranked ahead of them. Just above them on the list are teams like the Vikings (10th), Seahawks (11th), and Colts (12th).
Should the Steelers be ranked higher?
It remains to be seen if the Steelers could be more successful than the teams ahead of them on this list, and much of that rides on the success and health of Ben Roethlisberger this year. If Big Ben can return to his form from 2016 or 2017, Pittsburgh will be a forced to be reckoned with. But despite Ben leading the league in passing in 2018, his efficiency and the average depth of target took a major hit.
Rightfully so, the Steelers have ranked just ahead of teams like the Los Angeles Chargers (14th) and the Arizona Cardinals (15th). However, with teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, and Buffalo Bills all ranking in the top 8, Pittsburgh likely should have been higher on this list.
It’s hard to get too upset with any rankings at this point as we are still months away from the start of the 2020 NFL season. The Steelers certainly have a lot to prove on the offensive side of the ball this year. However, if they can make strides in that area, they could be among the best teams in the league this season.