If you believe what ESPN and NFL.com have to say, then you should be pleased to hear that both outlets believe the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that is capable of making the sort of one-season turnaround that the San Francisco 49ers just made, going from one of the worst teams in the league to advancing to the Super Bowl, even though they did blow a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter of that game.
The biggest parallel that the two teams have, which both point out, is that a big reason they struggled (in 2019 and 2018, respectively), is because they spent most of the year without their franchise quarterback under center. Ben Roethlisberger was limited to six quarters for the Steelers last year, and Jimmy Garoppolo missed most of the 2018 season for San Francisco.
Getting back a franchise quarterback is kind of a huge deal, so it makes the Steelers an overwhelmingly obvious candidate to consider as it concerns teams who can go from missing the postseason to making it to the Super Bowl from one year to the next.
One area in which they differ somewhat is that the 49ers’ defense improved a lot from 2018 to 2019. The Steelers’ defense was already great in 2019, and they have to hope that that will carry over into 2020. They should carry over just about everybody short of Javon Hargrave, assuming they retain Bud Dupree, so the personnel won’t be the issue.
Adam Rank, frankly, didn’t have much interesting to say or point out in his article for the league’s website, essentially saying that they just need Roethlisberger to be a little better than the Chicago Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky to be a title contender.
Bill Barnwell had a more substantive input, for one thing noting that the Steelers should have an easier schedule this year than they did in 2019. They will go from playing the NFC West’s 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams to playing the NFC East, which was arguably the worst division in the NFL. They also get the AFC South, so they’ll be playing Gardner Minshew and Jacoby Brissett.
It is worth noting that the 49ers, as Barnwell noted, were able to get a lot better this season through the draft, adding Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, among others. This year, the Steelers don’t even have a first-round pick, and their third-round pick will be compensatory, plus they won’t have a pick in the fifth round.
By and large, the only major difference for the Steelers between 2019 and 2020 will be, hopefully, a much healthier roster. That includes not just Roethlisberger but also Stephon Tuitt, James Conner, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, among others. If they can just be healthy, this roster does have enough talent to make a dent in the playoffs.