One of the biggest discussions surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers entering the 2020 season was whether or not the potential of their talent level would be able to rise to needed levels. They were seen as one of the talented teams with the most questions surrounding them, leaving many analysts to approach them with caution.
As but a small token of that trend, it was routine to see the Steelers ranked just outside the top 10 teams in the league, usually one or two spots off. For example, Dan Hanzus for NFL.com had the Steelers at 11 for a while before moving them to the 12th spot shortly before the regular season began.
Following their fairly convincing victory over the New York Giants on Monday night on the road—though granted, road games don’t quite mean this year what they ordinarily do—they’re suddenly rapid risers, as Hanzus has moved them all the way up to seventh, a leap of five spots. He writes:
A hugely promising start to the season for the Steelers, who got a vintage Ben Roethlisberger start in his return from elbow surgery, a 100-yard rushing day from Benny Snell and a smothering performance from the front seven, which limited Giants star Saquon Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries. Big Ben’s return stands out, however: He shook off some early rust to throw for 229 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover. We wondered last year how far the Steelers could go if they combined their world-beating defense with strong quarterback play. We’re about to find out.
It was Roethlisberger’s 50th game in which he threw at least three touchdown passes in his NFL career—and his 30th game in which he threw at least three touchdowns without throwing an interception. He managed that three times during the 2018 season, most recently in week 16 against the New Orleans Saints. He only managed it once in 2017, but four times in 2016.
While he’s not going to throw three touchdowns every game, nor is he going to go all year without turning the ball over, his play is expected to grow in consistency, particularly as he gains more playing time with some key new faces like Eric Ebron, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool.
And of course there’s Devin Bush going into his second season, Minkah Fitzpatrick in his first full year with the club, and T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree continuing to rise as one of the very best edge tandems in the NFL.
There are plenty of reasons to buy the Steelers, and it’s easy to predict that they will be working their way up the boards in the near future—though some, like ESPN, who has them ranked 11th, may take longer to see it.