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Previewing The Steelers’ 2020 Season: Weeks 10-11

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.

Since Ben Roethlisberger took over as the quarterback for the team in 2004, the Steelers have averaged 6.313 wins in their first 10 games. During this era, through the first 8 games, the Steelers have averaged 5 wins (.625) – while the 2nd half of the season has averaged out a little better with 5.44 wins (.680). In 2020, the Steelers strength of schedule is quite a bit more favorable in the 2nd half than the first. The first half of the season strength of schedule from 2019 is .523 while the latter half is only .391. In other words, the Steelers have historically performed better in the 2nd half of the season which bodes well for an easier (on paper) second half of 2020.

With all this context in mind, I will break down the Steelers’ 9th and 10th games of the 2020 season.

Week 10  – November 15th – vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals, and more specifically Joe Burrow, will have all eyes on them this season with lofty expectations following a record breaking college campaign at LSU. There is a lot of room for improvement, as the Bengals managed only 2 wins in 2019 – ultimately landing the 1st overall selection in the draft that landed them Burrow. A lot of Burrow’s early success will hinge on the Bengals’ ability to protect the quarterback from sacks and general pressure. In 2019 the Bengals quarterbacks were sacked 48 times. For reference, the Steelers inexperienced quarterbacks who often times would slide into the sack at no fault of the offensive line were only sacked 32 times in 2019.

The Bengals had some unfortunate injuries last season including a couple offensive linemen, as well as their star receiver, A.J. Green. With injured players set to return and some weapons added for Burrow in the draft, it will be interesting to see just how much success the Bengals can achieve at the dawn of the Burrow era. One potential setback for Burrow will be the COVID-19 shortened preseason with little time to acclimate before the regular season hits, but this week 10 matchup is far enough into the season where he should at least have his feet underneath him.

Steelers vs. Bengals all time record: 66-35-0
Steelers vs. Texans (at home): 34-16-0
Last match result: 16-0 Steelers (2019)
Notable offseason additions: CB Mackensie Alexander, S Vonn Bell, G Xavier Su’a-Filo
Notable draft picks: QB Joe Burrow, WR Tee Higgins

Key match-up to watch: The Steelers will absolutely try to fluster the rookie quarterback and set the tone with pressure early and often. The Bengals pass protection should be a little better with some returns from injured reserve, but the Steelers led the league in both sacks and takeaways in 2019. They will no doubt try to make that the story of the game against a rookie signal caller.

Highlight from last match:

Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Bengals 17. (6-3)

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Week 11  – November 22nd – at the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars had high expectations for their 2019 season with the acquisition of Nick Foles, but he ended up on injured reserve in week 2. This event made way for the early season craze that was Minshew Mania. Gardner Minshew took over as a rookie and strung together some victories before fizzling out and losing 6 of their last 8. The Jaguars had seen enough as they traded away Nick Foles, and are rolling into the 2020 season with Minshew at the helm. Minshew will have a couple big new targets to work with in TE Tyler Eifert and recent draftee, Laviska Shenault Jr.

The Jaguars traded away perhaps their best player, Jalen Ramsey, for a decent haul of draft picks, but the once vaunting Jacksonville defense is very much in rebuild-mode. Long time staples like Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell are now on other teams, while the Jaguars defense already showed regression last season allowing 375.4 yard per game compared to their 311.4 yard per game mark in 2018.

Steelers vs. Jaguars all time record: 12-14-0
Steelers vs. Jaguars (away):
6-7-0
Last match result:
20-16 Steelers (2018)
Notable offseason additions:
LB Joe Schobert, CB Darqueze Dennard
Notable draft picks:
CB C.J. Henderson, WR Laviska Shenault Jr., LB K’Lavon Chaisson, DT Davon Hamilton

Key match-up to watch: Ben Roethlisberger has had some rough games against the Jaguars in his career, but this defense is not the same it was when Ben threw 5 interceptions back in 2017. Look for Ben to test the rookie cornerback, CJ Henderson. Diontae Johnson averaged 3.6 yards of separation as a rookie – good for the top mark among receivers in the NFL. Someone with elite route running is sure to give a rookie defensive back some problems.

Highlight from last match:

Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 17. (7-3)


Previous Weeks:

Weeks 1-2
Weeks 3-4
Weeks 5-6
Weeks 7-9

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