Steelers Season Preview

Everything to know about the upcoming season.


photo by Mark Alberti

The team is preparing for an unusual season without the presence of fans — but with the return of its longtime leader..

Flynn McGurrin, Staff Writer

Last Monday night against the New York Giants, the Steelers opened their 2020-21 season. With an incredibly unusual few months ahead, here’s everything you can expect to see.

This year’s team lineup has high expectations. Plagued last year by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow surgery, the team saw a disappointing 8-8 season. With Big Ben back in the mix, no significant losses, and added depth, there should be no excuses for the Steelers this year. 

The team has also made some key additions this season, including rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool, who is expected to add depth to the receiver group. Claypool will hopefully open up space for Juju Smith-Schuster (WR). Veteran tight end Eric Ebron should provide some scoring in the red zone and might just be the offensive threat the Steelers have been looking for. The team also has multiple rookies to add to the depth chart, including offensive guard Kevin Dotson, and linebacker Alex Highsmith.

In comparison to their rivals, the Steelers have the second easiest schedule this year. Along with their healthy offense and added receiver depth, the team arguably has the best defense in the league. Despite these added benefits, fans expect that the biggest factor to this year’s success will be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburghers seem to think the new Big Ben is invincible. If he stays in good shape, he has the potential to lead the Steelers to a deep playoff run. With hopes that the defense has another dominant season, the Steelers could finish at 12-4 and even have a shot at beating the Ravens for the division.

Nevertheless, Big Ben isn’t the old Ben we’re used to. His old age and recent elbow surgery could spell disaster for the Steelers offense should he injure himself again. The offense clearly struggled last year without Roethlisberger. Quarterback Mason Rudolph certainly did not prove himself as a strong leader in place of Roethlisberger, and Duck Hodges offered little more than a few weeks of desperate hope last season.

The defense carried the lackluster offense to eight wins last year. If they fail to produce this year, the team could have some problems. The worst-case scenario for the Steelers would be another embarrassing 8-8 score. The team has tendencies to play down to their opponents, and frequent injuries could also result in some added losses.

With that said, the lack of fans in the stadium this year could result in a swayed focus. The Steelers are known for having one of the biggest and loudest crowds in the NFL. While there will be significantly fewer distractions, the environment the team has grown accustomed to will now be silent. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the empty stadiums has not only at home but on the road, too. Playing without fans in attendance will most likely eliminate home field advantage, so the defense will have to be on point without the added noise. However, the offense should have some more breathing room without opposing fans to slow them down.

As for my expectations, I anticipate the defense will lead the Steelers to at least eight wins, but the overall outcome of the season will come down to their offensive execution and, of course, the durability of Ben Roethlisberger.