Can the Steelers compete with the Chiefs and Ravens in the AFC?

Patrick Mahomes T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Patrick Mahomes T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Steelers are talented enough to make the playoffs in 2020, but can they compete with the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens this year?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season ended in disappointment last season as they were at the mercy of their backup quarterbacks. Despite owning a defense that was top six in every major statistical category, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges simply could not get the job done. They finished the season with three straight losses in which they scored just 10 points in each contest.

This year should be different. With losing just Javon Hargrave on defense while bolstering their offense, could the Steelers compete with teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens this year?

Good Morning Football recently asked a similar question, and the results were mixed.

I use this wording because obviously, I believe the Steelers are good enough to slide into a playoff spot in 2020 – especially with their now being seven teams in the race. But even if Ben Roethlisberger proves to be fully healthy, could they compete with the best the AFC has to offer.

Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are the 2018 and 2019 NFL MVP’s, respectively. Meanwhile, as good as Big Ben’s career has been for Pittsburgh, he has never even made a first-team All-Pro – let alone come close to earning league MVP honors.

The Chiefs have had record-setting offenses with Mahomes while the Ravens set a new NFL rushing record last season with quite arguably the best runner we have ever seen from the quarterback position. Both Mahomes and Jackson are young players at the most important position in football and are widely considered the two most valuable players in the NFL.

At 38 years old and coming off a major elbow injury, Roethlisberger needs to prove that he can hold his own against younger, fresher competition. To help him out, the Steelers had one of the NFL’s best defense from Week 4 on last season, and while they won’t be able to repeat the stunning number of takeaways they earned last year, their defense as a whole could be just as good in 2020.

For the Steelers to legitimately be as good as the Chiefs or Ravens this year, it’s going to take all parts working together in unison. Though Ben hasn’t had a lot of time to develop chemistry with his young wide receivers, it will be critical that they are on the same page prior to heading into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, with an aging offensive line and a spotty run game, Pittsburgh’s defense can ill-afford to take a step backward in 2020. Young players like T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Devin Bush, and Terrell Edmunds must continue to get better if they are to keep up the pace this year.

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Overall, I have very little doubt that the Steelers could finish as a top-seven team in the AFC this year. However, being able to compete with elite AFC teams like the Chiefs and the Ravens is an entirely different story. Much of their success lives and dies by Ben Roethlisberger. If he’s healthy, they will have a chance to be legitimate contenders in 2020.