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ESPN 2020 Projections Have Roethlisberger Returning With Average Season

Credit to ESPN’s Mike Clay, who went through a team-by-team 2020 projection across the NFL. A stat pack for each organization. Here’s how he projects the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers.

For starters, he has them as a ten win team. His schedule outlook is based on probabilities, so the final win projection is technically 10.2, but let’s consider that a 10-6 team and according to his prediction, a #5 seed in the AFC.

At quarterback, he has Ben Roethlisberger playing in only 14 games, completing nearly 64% of his passes for over 3800 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Mason Rudolph comes off the bench for two presumed starts, throwing another three touchdowns.

The running game is a bit of a casserole for the second straight year. Playing in 13 games, James Conner is the team’s leading rusher but for just over 700 yards. Anthony McFarland is second in carries (89) and yards (368) and tied with Benny Snell with two rushing touchdowns.

One minor surprise along the offensive line is Matt Feiler remaining at RT with Stefen Wisniewski starting at LG. Wisniewski hasn’t started an entire season since 2015 as a member of the Jaguars.

JuJu Smith-Schuster enjoys a bounce back season, to a certain degree anyway, with 80 receptions, 1026 yards, and seven scores. Diontae Johnson oddly has a pretty disappointing sophomore campaign, finishing with 62 grabs, 736 yards, and five touchdowns according to Clay’s projections. That’s only a minor step up from what he did as a rookie. Top draft pick Chase Claypool finds the end zone four times on 35 catches.

According to Clay’s outlook, Eric Ebron leads the way at tight end with 43 receptions, 499 yards, and four scores. Vance McDonald is much quieter with a 23/236/2 line.

Flipping over to defense, Clay’s sack predictions are on the conservative side. TJ Watt with 11, Bud Dupree 8.5, Cam Heyward six, and Stephon Tuitt just five. At off-ball linebacker, Devin Bush leads the defense in tackles with 120. In one of the more curious projections, Robert Spillane logs 256 snaps and puts up 35 stops.

The interception numbers are on the low end too. Joe Haden with 2.8 and Minkah Fitzpatrick at 2.7 “leading” the way.

On special teams, Chris Boswell is projected to have another solid season, going 26/31 on field goals while Jordan Berry averages 44.4 yards per punt.

It’s all fairly arbitrary and clearly there’s a decent amount to disagree with. But Clay’s work provides a framework for us to go off of and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Here’s the link again to the whole NFL packet. 

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