Previewing The Steelers’ 2020 Season: Weeks 7&9

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 – (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 for the team in 2004, the Steelers have averaged exactly 5 wins through their first 8 games. Oddly, they only finished with a win total of 5 during this span on three occasions. More often than not, they had 6 wins, but a couple early season clunkers in 2006 and 2013 have dragged the average down.

With all that context in mind, I will break down weeks 7 and 8 for the Steelers’ 2020 season.

Week 7  – October 25th – at the Baltimore Ravens

The Steelers were one of the few teams to have success containing Lamar Jackson last season holding him to 161 passing yards with 1 touchdown to 3 interceptions, and 70 yards rushing on 14 attempts. The Steelers ultimately lost in overtime, but handed Jackson his worst passer rating (54.9) of the season. Overall, the Steelers defense stifled the Ravens rushing attack in that game. If Lamar Jackson’s scrambles and designed running plays are taken out, the running backs mustered only 68 yards on 26 attempts (2.6 ypc) – a stark contrast to the week 17 tilt where the Ravens’ backups put up 223 yards on 44 attempts (5.1 ypc).

One of the differences between those two games was the presence of Stephon Tuitt. He was present in the first game and had 6 total tackles, but was on injured reserve by the time the week 17 game came around. Perennial All-Pro guard, Marshall Yanda, also retired which is a definite blow to the Ravens’ offensive line.

Steelers vs. Ravens all time record: 28-24-0
Steelers at Ravens all time record: 11-13-0
Last match result: 28-10 Ravens (2019)
Notable free agent addition: DE Calais Campbell
Notable draft picks: ILB Patrick Queen, RB J.K. Dobbins, WR Devin Duvernay, WR James Proche

Key match-up to watch: The Steelers were able to get pressure from all over their front seven in their last match-up with Lamar Jackson which led to 3 interceptions and only 161 yards passing. All-pro guard, Marshall Yanda, retired from the league, so look for the Steelers to dial up pressure and force Lamar Jackson out of the pocket, where the overall speed of the defense can limit big plays and force errors.

Highlight from last match:

Score Prediction: Steelers 14, Ravens 17. (4-3)

Week 8 – BYE

Week 9  – November 8th – at the Dallas Cowboys

The Steelers have their toughest few games on the schedule towards the end of the first 8 games. The bye week comes at the right time after a tough road game against the Ravens in what is always a highly physical matchup. The Steelers will have an extra week to prepare for the Cowboys. Since Ben Roethlisberger joined the team in 2004, the Steelers have gone 11-5 (.688) after the bye. This game is also their furthest distance to travel on the season.

The Cowboys struggled in 2019 despite owning the league’s number one offense in total yards, averaging 431.5 yard per game. For reference the Steelers’ offense was the 30th ranked with 276.8 yards per game. The Cowboys had 7 games against eventual playoff teams last year and managed only 1 win. They are a tough team to figure out. On paper they have a high level of talent and in the regular season that talent did result in favorable rankings for both their offense and defense, but their record was 8-8 just like the Steelers. Only, the Steelers have their franchise quarterback returning and the 2nd easiest strength of schedule in 2020.

Steelers vs. Cowboys all time record: 15-17-0
Steelers at Ravens all time record: 6-9-0
Last match result: 35-30 Cowboys (2016)
Notable free agent addition: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Dontari Poe
Notable draft picks: WR CeeDee Lamb, CB Trevon Diggs, DT Neville Gallimore, C Tyler Biadasz, DE Bradlee Anae

Key match-up to watch: The Cowboys’ wide receiver group is one that will give issues to a lot of defenses. Between Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb they have some outstanding talent with an equally potent rushing attack to help balance out the offense. The Steelers’ secondary had an excellent season last year allowing only 194.6 yards per game. This will be one of the top displays of a high level defense going against a high level offense that the NFL has to offer in 2020.

Highlight from last match:

Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Cowboys 17. (5-3)


Previous Weeks:

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

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