The Pittsburgh Steelers had a great offense in 2018. They had a great defense in 2019. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of the defense in 2018, or the offense in 2019. Their best, and perhaps last chance of having great units on both side of the ball in the same season figures to be in 2020, which also makes it their last, best chance to add another Lombardi to the trophy case.
Based on the returning personnel, it’s reasonable to believe that the Steelers should be able to field a very competent defense next season. Having the likes of T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Heyward, Devin Bush, Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, Steven Nelson, and Bud Dupree (hopefully) should do most of the lifting required to make that a reality. Health is the other major obstacle.
Unfortunately, that’s the same obstacle for the offensive side of the ball as well. Aside from the injuries of James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the entire season was fundamentally changed with Ben Roethlisberger going down in the second game of the season.
The 16-year veteran suffered an elbow injury on his throwing arm, which had to be operated on during the year. He played just six quarters and failed to win a game or even throw a touchdown. This was a year after throwing a franchise record 34 touchdown passes and over 5000 passing yards.
But what will he look like in 2020? That is the question that hangs over the entire offseason, and the one that everybody is asking.
“I too look forward to seeing, can Ben come back in a better position than he was earlier this season?”, Ryan Clark, a former Steelers player who now works in the media, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Is his arm to the point where he can make all the throws he needs to make? The true answer is, only Number 7 knows”.
Unfortunately, he’s largely right about that, but not even Roethlisberger knows right now. We should know more about him in a short time, because he is scheduled to undergo a significant checkup at the start of the next month, and that may determine the timescale for his beginning to throw.
Art Rooney II has offered encouraging words, saying that the quarterback has been progressing well and generally ahead of schedule, but he also warned that he is early on in his rehabilitation. We may not know much until training camp. Maybe not even until a few games into the regular season, at least before we really know who he will be as a player in 2020.