The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which Steelers player who began the season as a starter showed the most improvement during the 2020 season?
Now that the offseason is in full swing for everybody, you can imagine that, in between mock drafts and free agency rumors and speculation, we are going to be getting a lot of reflective pieces on the season that was, as well. We here are no different, of course, and this is one such piece.
There are a lot of variables in the equation, but the Steelers did go from 8-8 in 2019 to 12-4 in 2020. The play at the quarterback position was huge in that, but not that alone. There were others who stepped up as well in helping that along.
So my question today is, which player who entered the season intended as a starter showed the most improvement this past year? It doesn’t necessarily have to be from directly the year before, but compared to the entirety of his career.
I would gather that Terrell Edmunds, the team’s starting strong safety, will be a popular answer, if begrudgingly so. He did round out some of the rough patches in his game, even if he remains something of a work in progress.
Many might be inclined to say Stephon Tuitt, but did he really improve from where he was in 2019 at the time of his injury? He already seemed to be on the same trajectory. Then there is Tyson Alualu, of course, who went from the fourth lineman to a starter. He actually played more in 2019 than the did in 2020, so I think it’s more than fair to include him.
Who do you have in mind, if not one of those named above? JuJu Smith-Schuster obviously had a much better season than in 2019, but was it better than his rookie season? Certainly not 2018.