It was clear that something was missing from the Pittsburgh Steelers last year; something that kept them one game away from having a winning season. That something was their future Hall of Fame QB, Ben Roethlisberger. When you take that into account, it makes their 8-8 finish last year look even more impressive.
2019 was a season where the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their defense carry them into playoff contention. Devin Bush immediately became an impact player last year as a rookie, making plays all over the field and leading the team in tackles. Terrell Edmunds was highly involved as a LB/Safety hybrid. Cam Heyward has continued to play at a Pro Bowl level as a 3-4 DE. Joe Haden and Mikah Fitzpatrick were absolute ball hawks in the secondary. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree wreaked havoc with their pass rushing abilities. Unfortunately, their defense alone was not enough.
What kept Pittsburgh a game away from making the playoffs, was their dysfunctional offense. Injuries had affected their offensive rhythm all season. James Conner battled a series of injuries last year, which hurt their running game. JuJu Smith-Schuster struggled in 2019, battling his own fair share of injury woes.
However, their biggest blow last season was the loss of their longtime QB, Ben Roethlisberger. They were forced to rely on the inconsistent play of Duck Hodges and Mason Rudolph in an attempt to keep their season afloat. Considering those circumstances, Pittsburgh played well, but it was ultimately not enough to make the playoffs.
Fortunately for Steelers fans, good news came out today about Big Ben, and if the 2020 season goes on as planned, things may be different for them. Ever since his injury last year, Roethlisberger promised that he would not shave or trim his beard until he felt comfortable throwing to his teammates again. Today, the Steelers posted a video of Big Ben getting his beard trimmed after practicing with JuJu, Ryan Switzer and James Conner.
While he is nearing the tail end of his career and not as durable as he used to be, the video today should be enough for Steelers fans to be optimistic. No longer is he sporting the creepy Amish beard, looking less like Brett Keisel and more like the Big Ben we remember. The Steelers made their intentions clear about their QB plans this offseason, refusing to pick up another guy in free agency or in the NFL Draft. Therefore, this is great news for them.
If all goes well, Big Ben will be coming back to a talented group of receivers and tight ends. James Washington and Diontae Johnson both performed well in JuJu’s absence, considering the awful circumstances they were in. Now, they have Chase Claypool added to an already solid group of young receivers. Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald have shown the ability to be reliable pass-catchers at the TE position. If James Conner stays healthy and the defense continues to dominate, Pittsburgh will be a scary team to face in January.