The Steelers enter the 2020 season with aspirations of returning to the playoffs but are those aspirations realistic. What should Steelers fans’ expectations be for this season?
The Steelers, like every other team in the NFL, are on the precipice of embarking on a new season. Also, like every other team in the NFL, the Steelers have aspirations of returning to the playoffs, somewhere we have not been for the previous two seasons. I think it’s fair to say that the Steelers should have the mindset of returning to the playoffs, but what should the expectations be for Steelers fans?
Having been a Steelers fan since 1978, there were years where my expectations were not tempered as I knew that we would win another Super Bowl that season. Conversely, there were years where my expectations were very much tempered as I knew that the best-case scenario was for us to finish with no better than a ‘break-even’ record.
So what are my expectations for the 2020 season you ask? Good question, to which I will respond with this: I am tempering my expectations for this season for myriad reasons. First and foremost, I think the lack of a preseason will affect our play at the outset of the season. The fact that we open on the road on Monday night does not bode well for a team trying to regain its confidence after two consecutive seasons sans the playoffs.
Second, regardless of what the schedule looks like ‘on paper’, I think the tone for the season will be set in the second game. After the Monday game against the New York Giants, we return home to face the Denver Broncos. If we lose the opener to the Giants, we must beat the Broncos. If for some reason, we start the season with two losses, it will be an ‘uphill battle’ for the rest of the season.
Moreover, the lack of depth at certain positions is troublesome to me. I realize neither the 53-man roster nor the practice squad has been finalized, but you can almost predict who will make the ’53’ and who will not (make the ’53’). I think the depth at Quarterback, Running Back, to an extent, both Inside and Outside Linebacker, and both Free Safety and Strong Safety is cause for concern or at least it should be for both the Steelers and for the fans.
Last but certainly not least is the fact that the Steelers may have to make difficult contract decisions depending on what the salary cap will look like for the 2021 season. If I am a player whose contract will expire after this season, I don’t know how focused I am going to be on the current season not knowing where I might be playing next season. I’m sure the Steelers would like to be able to retain all pending free agents and would like to extend all the players we deem worthy of an extension, but that is not a realistic expectation.
So where does all of this leave us? I think it’s fair for both the Steelers and fans of the Steelers to expect a better result this season than the one we had last season and the season before that. What that better result looks like, I think only time will tell. I don’t know about you, but I am entering this season with a cautiously optimistic mindset. I hope I will be pleasantly surprised come January.