The 2019 NFL season came to an end Sunday night with Super Bowl LIV and on Monday ESPN.com started looking wholeheartedly forward to the 2020 season with the annual early release of their initial power rankings.
Not surprisingly, ESPN.com has the Kansas City Chiefs as their No. 1 team did start off 2020 and the San Francisco 49ers right behind them. ESPN’s top 10 is rounded out with the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and the Houston Texans.
As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are ranked 15th overall in ESPN’s initial 2020 NFL Power Rankings and below is what Brooke Pryor wrote about the team’s outlook and overall reason for optimism.
“Ben Roethlisberger. There’s still a way to go to find out if the franchise quarterback is hitting all the marks in his recovery from this past season’s elbow surgery, but Roethlisberger’s return answers a lot of questions for an offense that struggled with two backups in 2019. Every part of the offense needed Roethlisberger — from the running backs who faced a loaded box to the wide receivers who could’ve benefited from a consistent arm — and if his rehab goes as scheduled, he’ll be ready to resume his role for the 2020 season.”
The Steelers are apparently thought of a little better by the early odds makers than they are ESPN. Regardless, a long offseason awaits the Steelers and that offseason includes health updates on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in addition to finding out if outside linebacker Bud Dupree will be back in the fold for at least one more season.
On the surface, the Steelers seem destined to have quite a few of their defensive players that contributed heavily this past season back in 2020 and that’s great news and something to look forward to. In addition to hopefully getting Roethlisberger back fully healthy in 2020, the Steelers also hope to have wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner back healthy again as well.
The cap-strapped Steelers aren’t expected to be big players in free agency this offseason and they’ll also be without a first-round draft pick this year for the first time since 1967. Because of both of those notable things the team will likely need to fill whatever offseason holes they do have via the draft.
For whatever it’s worth, the other two AFC North teams, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, are ranked 22nd and 32nd overall, respectively, in ESPN’s initial 2020 power rankings.