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 Roethslisberger joined the team in 2004, the Steelers have averaged 10.438 wins in each season – good enough for a 65.23% average win rate. The Steelers have their best win rate in any two week span at the end of the season, as they have averaged 1.5 wins throughout the Ben era.
With all that context in mind, I will break down the 13th and 14th games on the Steelers’ schedule in 2020.
Week 16 – December 27th – vs. the Indianapolis Colts
The Steelers will host their final regular season home game in week 16 against the Colts. The 2019 version of the Colts managed only 7 wins, but have some reasons for optimism moving into the 2020 season. The first, and most important difference, is who will be behind center manning the quarterback position. Philip Rivers will be the signal caller in Indianapolis this year. Rivers, who was drafted the same year as Ben Roethlisberger, enjoyed a long and productive career with the Chargers, but the team chose to move on in free agency.
The team sure seems to be going all in on the offense this year, loading up the receiving group with high pedigree talent. T.Y. Hilton, of course, has been a mainstay there for several years, but Parris Campbell, a 2nd rounder entering his sophomore season, and Michael Pittman Jr., a rookie drafted at the top of the 2nd round will cause issues for opposing defenses. If not this year, then certainly down the road. The Colts also have the luxury of one of the top offensive lines in football headlined by Quenton Nelson who is one of the top linemen and players in the NFL.
Steelers vs. Colts all time record: 25-6-0
Steelers vs Colts (at home): 16-2-0
Last match result: 26-24 Steelers (2019)
Notable free agent additions: DT DeForest Buckner, FB Roosevelt Nix, CB Xavier Rhodes, QB Philip Rivers
Notable draft picks: WR Michael Pittman Jr., RB Jonathan Taylor, S Julian Blackmon, QB Jacob Eason
Key match-up to watch: Quenton Nelson vs. Cameron Heyward. Heyward got the better of Nelson in the 2019 matchup which was recently in the news cycle. Heyward was a class act in response to the negative comments towards Nelson, but you can bet Nelson has this matchup circled for 2020. The Colts will look to establish the run game with Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor, and Nelson will be a big part in making that work against the Steelers defensive front.
One NFL defensive assistant coach on Quenton Nelson: “Ever since I saw Cam Heyward whoop up on him, I’ve never looked at him the same.”
Ranking the NFL’s Top 10 interior O-linemen. https://t.co/1aW0BFpBkM
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 12, 2020
Highlight from last match:
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) July 12, 2020
Score Prediction: Steelers 17, Colts 21. (10-5)
Week 17 – January 3rd – at the Cleveland Browns
The Steelers and Browns rivalry is about as one sided as any in the National Football League. Since Ben Roethlisberger joined the team in 2004, the combined record is 27-4-1. The Browns have not beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh since 2003 and own an abysmal 4-11-1 record 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 might now 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.
By this point in the season, unless the Steelers are vying for the top spot, they will not have a whole lot to play for other than jockeying for position in the seeding. The new playoff format accommodates one extra team in each conference, while also limiting first round byes to only the top seed. The Browns, on the other hand, might have a shot at a playoff berth with the expanded format and their favorable strength of schedule. Even still, the Steelers vs. Browns week 17 record since 2004 is a perfect 8-0 with a lopsided scoring margin of 212-95.
Steelers vs. Browns all time record: 76-59-1
Steelers at Browns: 28-38-0
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:
Steelers offensive line vs Browns pass rush. The Steelers have struggled to establish the run in recent history which puts more pressure on Roethlisberger to attempt 50+ passes. That many attempts against the formidable Cleveland pass rush could spell trouble.
Highlight from last match:
Score Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 17. (11-5)