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Previewing The Steelers’ 2020 Season: Weeks 1-2

The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers are set for a bit of a redemption season. In 2019 a lot of pieces came together, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, but with the injury of Ben Roethlisberger the team never really had a shot to make a splash in the postseason. By all reports, Ben is ready to go this year which provides a good deal of hope for the outcome of the 2020 season.

In this series, I will break down 2 games at a time, give some historic precedence, and ultimately give a prediction based on my findings.

Here are some notable 2020 Steelers win and loss totals from experts and models around the media:

CBS Sports Panel (9 wins)
ESPN Football Power Index (8.8 wins)
MyBookie over/under (9.5 wins)
Adam Rank – NFL.com (13 wins)
PFF Elo rating system (7.7 wins)

For the most part, it seems that national media and betting sites are bearish on the 2020 Steelers, besides a couple bullish outliers that see things differently.

With the return of almost all of a very strong defense and the return of a previously injured franchise quarterback, also coupled with the 2nd easiest strength of schedule in 2020 (.457) the media consensus seems a bit low.

Interestingly enough, the Steelers, since Roethlisberger joined the team in 2004, have averaged 1.188 wins coming out of the gate each year in their first 2 games. They have had six perfect 2-0 starts during that time to three winless starts.

With all that context in mind, I will break down the 2020 opening slate of games.

Week 1 – September 14th – at the New York Giants (MNF)

The Steelers will kick off the season on the road for the 6th season in a row. During that stretch, they have mustered a 2-2-1 record in their opening game with both losses against the New England Patriots. In both cases the Patriots were unveiling their Super Bowl banner from the previous season – an unenviable position to be in for the Steelers.

The Giants are coming off 3 straight seasons well below .500 with last season being 4-12. If there is any bright spot for this squad it’s the fact that their superstar running back, Saquon Barkley will be healthy and their quarterback, Daniel Jones will have another year of experience under his belt.

Steelers season opener record (since 2004): 10-5-1
Steelers vs. Giants all time record: 30-44-3
Steelers at Giants all time record: 16-22-0
Steelers Monday Night Football record under Mike Tomlin: 16-2 (9-2 on the road)
Last match result: 24-14 Steelers (2016)
Notable free agent addition: CB James Bradberry (three years, $45 million, $31.8 million guaranteed)
Notable draft picks: OT Andrew Thomas, S Xavier McKinney

Key match-up to watch: Daniel Jones took 38 sacks last season behind a shoddy offensive line. The Steelers defense last season forced 54 sacks. Daniel Jones has another year of experience and a high first round OT talent, but on the flip-side the Steelers are returning Stephon Tuitt from injury.

Highlight from last match:


Score Prediction:
Steelers 28, Giants 17. (1-0)

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Week 2 – September 20th – vs. Denver Broncos

Another week, another 2nd year quarterback. This time, the Steelers will face off against Drew Lock (42nd overall, 2nd round).  Lock played the final 5 games of the season following a series of events where Joe Flacco publicly questioned his team’s conservative offensive approach and got placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. Lock showed out decently well for himself going 4-1 with wins against the Chargers, Texans, Lions, and Raiders – his only loss against the Superbowl champion Kansas City Chiefs squad.

Of the five teams that Lock faced off against, only the Chiefs were a top 10 unit in points allowed. Lock had by far his worst game against them with a 45% completion percentage, 0 touchdowns, and an interception. Lock has yet to face the caliber of defense that is expected from the Steelers this season. All that being said, the Broncos look to have a decently high-powered offense this year if it all comes together nicely. Their receiving corps consists of Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, Jerry Jeudy, and DaeSean Hamilton – a very solid lineup top to bottom, not to mention recent first round tight end, Noah Fant. 

Steelers vs. Broncos all time record: 11-20-1
Steelers vs. Broncos (at home): 6-7-0
Last match result: 24-17 Broncos (2018)
Notable free agent additions: DL Jurrell Casey, CB A.J. Bouye, RB Melvin Gordon
Notable draft picks: WR Jerry Jeudy, WR KJ Hamler, IOL Lloyd Cushenberry

Key match-up to watch: The Broncos offensive line will be tasked with creating time and running room against the Steelers front 7. Mike Munchak is the offensive line coach over in Denver, so there is a level of familiarity with the Steelers defensive front. Look for him to take advantage of the departure of Javon Hargrave with a healthy dose of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay between the tackles.

Highlight from last match:

 

Score Prediction: Steelers 21, Broncos 20. (2-0)

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