The Pittsburgh Steelers’ ‘Killer Bs’ offense of the 2013-2017 era was one of the principle groups in the NFL during that time, led by Pro Bowlers Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Antonio Brown at wide receiver, and Le’Veon Bell at running back. The group was electric and dynamic, but never capitalized on their potential.
They did reach the AFC Championship Game in 2016, albeit banged up by that point. In 2017, they posted a 13-3 regular season record. Despite playing well in their postseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, however (Bell perhaps in particular), they fell short on the scoreboard.
Then Bell sat out the season in 2018, and Brown demanded to be traded afterward. James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster stepped up in 2018, both making the Pro Bowl and looking like the next in line in the triplets, before all three were riddled with injuries last season.
First, Smith-Schuster suffered a toe injury in the opener. Roethlisberger went down for the season after tearing three tendons in his elbow a week later. Conner suffered a series of injuries that limited him to fewer than 350 snaps on the year.
That time lost, however, opened the door for others to get playing time they otherwise wouldn’t, like Diontae Johnson and Benny Snell (and Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges…). And the team could be better off in 2020 because of that.
“We’ve got some young guys on this team who made plays and shown that they’re capable, and they’re still learning”, Conner said on SiriusXM Radio earlier today with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller. “I’m still learning. There are guys younger than me. So it’s been nice for us to have everybody back on this field and just put our hat on every day and just go to work. It’ll be exciting. It’s exciting times for us”.
If the offense can stay healthy, paired with their rising defense, this is certainly a team that has the talent level to compete with any team in the league on any given day. Staying healthy and on the field, however, has been their biggest obstacle.
The biggest key is keeping Roethlisberger upright and playing well, of course. The team believes that they have better insulated themselves at the skill positions this year, however, including at tight end with the addition of Eric Ebron.
Still, Conner and Smith-Schuster are the leads among the skill position players. Conner is a guy who scored 13 touchdowns in 2018. Smith-Schuster went off for 1426 yards on 111 catches that same year. These are proven commodities and the heads of their groups.