While the 2019 season was obviously a disappointment from its starting point to the finish line, ultimately failing to reach the postseason no matter the extenuating circumstances, there are still a number of things that occurred this year about which it is worth getting excited for the future.
And that goes especially for the internal growth of a number of young players, who should only player bigger roles, and at a higher level, in 2020 and beyond for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team got some significant contributions from some young faces, in many cases stepping up to fill shoes bigger than ought to have been asked of them.
That was the sentiments expressed by head coach Mike Tomlin yesterday during his press conference. “I thought through the course of it all, I thought there were opportunities for growth for a lot of young men”, he said. “A lot of young guys rose up in our ranks in terms of their responsibilities and their contributions. Hopefully, that is an asset to us. Hopefully, that is a catalyst for many of the young people as they move into 2020”.
At the top of the list would have to be Devin Bush, a day-one starter who at one point certainly looked to be a very worthy candidate for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. By the time it’s all over, it’s still possible that he sneaks into the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
The 10th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft finished his rookie season with 109 tackles, becoming the first Steelers rookie to ever top 100 tackles. He also compiled a sack, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and two recoveries, in addition to four passes defensed, one defensive touchdown, and nine total tackles for loss.
But Bush is only one of a number out young players primed for bigger things, such as Diontae Johnson, Benny Snell, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and others. You can even speak to the growth of players like Deon Cain, Kerrith Whyte, and Zach Gentry.
“The experiences that they had is a catalyst for growth, because we need to get better”, Tomlin said. “We need to get better in all areas. In an effort to get better in all areas, we have to start first and foremost with the individual man and his health, his overall readiness and conditioning and then thus gain”.
Two other notable young players for whom this offseason is of great significance are Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Both had the opportunity to start for long stretches this season. Both of them, at times, looked to be in over their heads, and they were.
While Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return in 2020, and hopefully play at the same level to which we are accustomed, it is also imperative that the quarterback pipeline be developed, both for the immediate and the more distant future.