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:
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.
Since Ben Roethlisberger took over for the team in 2004, the Steelers have averaged 2.125 wins in their first 4 games. They have yet to start a perfect 4-0 during that time, as you would have to go all the way back to the Steelers’ last Superbowl winning season in 1979 to find a 4-0 start. They have, however, had a single 0-4 start back in 2013 capped by a deflating loss to the Vikings in London, England.
With all that context in mind, I will break down the 3rd and 4th scheduled games for the Steelers’ 2020 season.
Week 3 – September 27th – vs. Houston Texans
It’s hard to look at this Texans team and see a better result than last season’s 10-6 effort. They traded DeAndre Hopkins and lost Carlos Hyde to free agency. In return they now have David Johnson (via Hopkins trade), and they signed Brandin Cooks as well as aging veteran, Randall Cobb. Cooks will now be on his 4th team by the age of 26 and while he has had some definite success in the NFL, it is unclear if he can be a true number one at the WR position – especially when stacked up against DeAndre Hopkins.
There is no doubt though that DeSean Watson is one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL which certainly helps matters for the Texans. He led the team to a 2019 victory against the reigning Superbowl champion Chiefs on the road and also hung 28 points on the stingy Patriots defense. On the flip-side they suffered an enormous loss to the Ravens to the tune of 41-7 coming off their bye week.
Trading away Jadeveon Clowney last September and losing J.J. Watt to injury mid season left a lot to be desired in the Texans pass rush down the stretch. While they did address the defensive line and pass rush in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, a covid-shortened offseason threatens the level of productivity of new additions to any team – especially rookies.
Steelers vs. Texans all time record: 4-2-0
Steelers vs. Texans (at home): 2-1-0
Last match result: 34-6 Steelers (2017)
Notable offseason additions: WR Brandin Cooks, RB David Johnson, WR Randall Cobb
Notable draft picks: DT Ross Blacklock, DE/LB Jonathan Greenard
Key match-up to watch: The Texans have one of the game’s best left tackles in Laremy Tunsil and the Steelers have 2019 breakout player, Bud Dupree lining up across from him. This will be an interesting match-up to watch and one that could earn Dupree a lot of money if he plays under the franchise tag and it goes well. Dupree tallied 11.5 sacks and Tunsil allowed just 3 per Pro Football Focus.
Highlight from last match:
Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Texans 20. (3-0)
Week 4 – October 4th – at the Tennessee Titans
The Titans were one of the hottest teams in the NFL down the stretch in 2019. After a mid season switch from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill the Titans finished the last 10 games of the season at 7-3 and advanced to the playoffs where they ended the Tom Brady-Patriots era. They also ended the Superbowl hopes of the Ravens who were the runaway media favorites to win it all. They ultimately lost to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, a team they had beaten in the regular season with Tannehill at the helm.
Especially towards the end of the season, Tannehill wasn’t dazzling anybody with high volume stats, but he didn’t need to carry the game with Derrick Henry posting monster performances on the ground week after week. Where Tannehill really shined was his efficiency, posting passer ratings of 120 or more in 7 out of his 10 regular season games – including a perfect 158.3 against the Jaguars.
The Titans have a lot to be excited about this upcoming season with a young core of playmakers on both sides of the ball coming off a AFC Championship game appearance with an efficient quarterback and running game.
Steelers vs. Titans (since coming to Tennessee) all time record: 9-13-0
Steelers vs. Titans (away): 3-8-0
Last match result: 40-17 Steelers (2017)
Notable offseason additions: OLB Vic Beasley
Notable draft picks: OT Isaiah Wilson, RB Darrynton Evans
Key match-up to watch: Derrick Henry is a big and violent runner that still has a 2nd gear to break away from defenders. The Steelers defensive line will have their hands full against a Titans offensive line that helped transform the team down the stretch in 2019. A strong running game could also mean playaction passing, which the Steelers defense struggled with at times in 2019.
Highlight from last match:
Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Titans 24. (3-1)