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Previewing The Steelers’ 2020 Season: Weeks 5-6

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 projected 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.

Since Ben Roethlisberger joined the team and starting lineup in 2014, the Steelers have averaged 3.625 wins through the first 6 weeks. Of the two week intervals covered so far, weeks 5-6 have been very good to the Steelers as they have historically won 1.5 (.750) games during this period. The lowest win total they have had through 6 games is 2 (’06, ’13, ’19) – the highest being 5 (’04, ’08, ’10).

With all that context in mind, I will break down the 5th and 6th games of the Steelers’ 2020 season.

Week 5 – October 11th – vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles will be coming across the state in a week 5 clash that will see Javon Hargrave returning to Heinz field after he signed a lucrative 3 year, $39 million contract with the Eagles in free agency making him the highest paid nose tackle in the NFL. By this point in the season, the Steelers should have a pretty good idea of just how much they miss his presence and skill set in the middle of the defensive line.

The Eagles are coming off a 9-7 season that saw them squeak into the playoffs only to lose in the Wildcard round against the Seattle Seahawks. The 2019 season was also the first complete season Carson Wentz played since his rookie campaign in 2016 where he thrashed the Steelers while I was in attendance. This was the first game where I thought Wentz could be something special as he hung over 300 yards and 2 passing touchdowns on the Steelers in a brutal 34-3 loss.

The Eagles addressed some of their glaring roster gaps this offseason with some large money free agents including Hargrave, Malik Jackson, and Darius Slay (via trade). For these reasons, the Eagles seem to be trending up following a classic Superbowl hangover season in 2019.

Steelers vs. Eagles all time record: 28-48-3
Steelers vs. Eagles (at home): 19-21-1
Last match result: 34-3 Steelers (2016)
Notable offseason additions: CB Darius Slay, DT Malik Jackson, DT Javon Hargrave, ILB L.J. Fort
Notable draft picks: WR Jalen Reagor, QB Jalen Hurts, OT Prince Tega Wanogho

Key match-up to watch: The Eagles spent precious draft capital in the 2nd round on quarterback Jalen Hurts when they already have a more than serviceable young quarterback holding the position down. There are reports that the Eagles plan on using 2 quarterback packages to get Hurts on the field as soon as possible and utilize both skillsets which certainly seems intriguing as this young Steelers defense has not faced anything comparable. The Steelers will be relying on their defensive speed and preaching assignment sound football for this match-up, much like they did with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in 2019.

Highlight from last match:

 

Score Prediction: Steelers 17, Eagles 20. (3-2)

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Week 6 – October 18th  – vs. Cleveland Browns

This will be the first game that Myles Garrett will play against the Steelers since the infamous helmet swing on Mason Rudolph at the tail end of a crushing defeat for the Steelers. In fact, that game (14 points) was the 3rd worst margin of defeat for the Steelers in 2019 behind the Patriots in week 1 (30 points), and Ravens in week 17 (18 points). The Steelers were able to even the series record for 2019 just a couple weeks later at home.

The Browns had an up and down 2019 despite being heavily hyped before the season began. Notably, they were one of the few teams able to beat Lamar Jackson soundly, while on the flip side losing to the Devlin Hodges-led Steelers and the hapless Bengals in Week 17. They certainly have the talent, and perhaps now might have the head coach to help maximize that talent. In 2019, Freddie Kitchens was given the reigns and by all accounts was in over his head. Now they have Kevin Stefanski as the head coach who has been touted as one of the up-and-coming offensive minds in the NFL.

Ben Roethlisberger will be back this season, and his record against the Browns throughout his career is impeccable at 25-3-1, including a perfect 15-0 at home.

Steelers vs. Browns all time record: 76-59-1
Steelers vs. Browns (at home): 48-21-0
Last match result: 20-13 Steelers (2019)
Notable offseason addition: DT Sheldon Richardson
Notable draft picks: OT Jedrick Wills, S Grant Delpit, DL Jordan Elliot, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Key match-up to watch: 

The match-up that the media will hype up is the Myles Garret “revenge game” no doubt, but to me the more intriguing match-up will be the Steelers rushing attack vs. the Browns defense. The best individual rushing performance against the Browns in 2019 was Benny Snell with 63 yards on 16 carries (3.9 ypc). The other game, the Steelers were held to 58 yards rushing as a team – not a sustainable model for success. The return of the Steelers number one running back, James Conner, and the threat of a passing game with Ben Roethlisberger should help matters.

Highlight from last match:

 

Score Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 17. (4-2)


 

Previous Weeks:

Weeks 1-2
Weeks 3-4

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