A 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Recap And Season Preview

A 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Recap And Season Preview

Pittsbrugh Steelers 2019 Preview

The 2018 season was a little like the movie, Deliverance. The season got off to an entertaining, carefree start, but things quickly spiraled and the goal became survival. Unfortunately, the Steelers had some pretty bad games — Denver, Oakland — and managed to blow their 7-2-1 start and missed the playoffs. Antonio Brown began alienating himself from the team, James Conner got injured, the team flubbed a few really close games and they found themselves out of the playoff chase and wondering how it all went so bad. The team rankings didn’t match their record, any way you slice it:

  • Passing Offense: 2nd
  • PRushing Offense: 31st
  • POffensive Points per game: 6th
  • PPassing Defense: 10th
  • PRushing Defense: 6th
  • PDefensive Points Allowed (DPA): 16th

The DPA is the quizzical outlier here. However, their turnover differential was -11, which ranked 28th, so it makes sense their points allowed was so much higher than their defensive yardage surrendered indicates. Timely mistakes ruined a few games for the Steelers in 2018 — Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Saints — and a half a game was the only thing separating them from the playoffs.

In this preview we recap Free Agency and the Draft and a look ahead to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season to see if they can meet their 9 win totals at PA online sportsbooks such as PlaySugarHouse.

Looking for a preview of the Philadelphia Eagles? Check out our 2019 Philadelphia Eagles betting preview.

Free Agency Recap

The good news for the Steelers is that the mental mistakes were the biggest issue with the team. More disciplined coaching will lead to lower turnover rates, so when it came to address Free Agency concerns, the Steelers didn’t have a lot of areas needing improvement.

The Steelers spent $46 million this Free Agency, but it wasn’t as resounding and assuring as it may seem.

The “big” signing was Steven Nelson, the 5th ranked free agent corner according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). PFF also rated Nelson a 74 overall, so it appears the Steelers wanted to make sure they could tighten up their secondary for the 2019 season, even if they reached at the position.

Donte Moncrief was surprisingly added to the Steelers as means to give Ben a bigger outside receiver and allow the Steelers to diversify their attack, since they have quite a few receivers who profile as slot guys and playmakers. Moncrief was graded at a 62 this past season and hasn’t done a lot to justify his draft position — 3rd round — since entering the league in 2014. He’s got pretty good size at 6’2 and has big, soft hands, but he’s lacked explosiveness and isn’t as polished of a route runner for his style of play to really succeed consistently.

Mark Barron was the last “major” signing of the Steelers this FA period. Barron was a linebacker on the Rams a season ago and had eight tackles in the Super Bowl. He’s a versatile linebacker and former top-10 pick in the draft. Barron can play safety in certain formations, as I would expect he will get that opportunity at least twice this season when the Steelers face the Ravens and their dynamic run offense.

As a whole, the Steelers didn’t splurge too much in Free Agency, but they managed to add a lot of depth through the draft to answer any more concerns about the rest of the roster.

Draft Recap

Round 1: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

Devin Bush was drafted to be the replacement for Ryan Shazier, who suffered a bad spinal injury in 2017 and has been on the long road to recovery ever since. A four-star recruit, but just the #33 ranked player coming out of the state of Florida in high school, Bush made a big impact while at Michigan.

Bush is built like a strong safety (5-11, 227 lbs), but he’s exactly the kind of athletic predator you want on the second level. He’s got 4.43 speed and the coaching staff believes he’s going to be valuable in both pass coverage and the pass rush. Bush had ten tackles in the first half of the Steelers first preseason game, so that’s as solid as a team could possibly hope for in a debut.

Round 3: Dionte Johnson, WR, Toledo

The loss of Antonio Brown will open the door for a few receivers to jump in and take up the #2 spot, opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster. Shout out to Mike Prisuta of Steelers.com who correctly pinpointed the following pick, Justin Layne, prior to Layne actually being taken by the Steelers. Johnson has traits that resemble the recently departed Antonio Brown, but if I’m being completely honest, he profiles more closely to Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos.

He has tremendous natural athleticism and body awareness, which should benefit him greatly on those sideline throws. He attacks the ball in most cases, when necessary, to make the play just ahead of the defensive backs. He also has some great quickness, as AB demonstrated early on. Though it’s likely Washington or Moncrief will nab the #2 role opposite JuJu, Johnson needs to continue to work on his route running. But if this guy has anywhere near the work ethic of JuJu or AB, he can ascend to that level. I’d be more inclined to think of him in the realm of Emmanuel Sanders, just to keep it realistic.

Round 3: Justin Layne, DB, Michigan State

Layne is a versatile corner who didn’t post an amazing 40 time at the combine (4.50) but what he lacks in straight-line speed, he makes up for in his quickness and instincts tracking the ball. He was a converted receiver in college and has plenty of highlight interceptions on his resume. Layne can play in an array of defensive schemes and should be an excellent edition for this defense and their poor turnover margin.

Round 4: Benny Snell Jr, RB, Kentucky

Snell profiles as a bowling ball. He’s should be able to work into the offense to occasionally spell James Conner and will likely be utilized on first and second downs, while Jaylen Samuels should get the third-down work on those specific series. Snell offers a strong insurance plan for Conner and should get more work than you might expect if the Steelers are leading late and want to pound the rock to run out the clock.

Round 5: Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan

Gentry is an athletic, 6’8 tight-end, who lacks elite speed at the position, but has a massive catch radius and solid receiving skills. He’s already got a touchdown at the NFL level in the opener against the Bucs, but he’s going to need to bulk up and improve his strength and blocking abilities, or he’s going to be limited to two-TE sets and rotating in on occasional passing downs near the Red Zone.

Round 6: Sutton Smith, LB, Northern Illinois

Sutton Smith is one exceptional playmaker at the position. He’s got a keen eye for the ball, decent size, and good enough speed. Smith, like Layne, could be an impact player on defense and should be able to help turn around the Steelers’ woes on turnover differential.

Round 6: Isaiah Buggs, DE, Alabama

Buggs doesn’t jump off the page as anything spectacular. He’s got an above-average sense of awareness during plays and can get the motor going from time to time, but I don’t see much of him being this line-altering player he appeared to be while at Alabama.

Round 6: Ulysses Gilbert, LB, Akron

Gilbert was facing an uphill battle as a late-round rookie on a deep depth chart, but he’s slowly trekking to the top right now as he jumped a slant route on a two-point conversion for his first interception. He’s also been looking solid in camp and has had quite a few first-team reps at this point. He’s looking like a safe bet to make the 53-man roster and should be a contributor on special teams right away.

Round 7: Derwin Gray, OL, Maryland

So far, Derwin Gray is on the brink of making the 53-man roster.

2019 Preview

As far as 2019 goes, the Steelers are poised to compete again for the division title. Even with AB gone, the Steelers should have no problems scoring. The question will be, can the defense come up with the big plays when they need them?

Currently, the Steelers and Browns are co-favorites to win the division, with win totals of nine each. I think the Steelers show every indication of positive regression to the mean from a year ago. The addition of a few defensive playmakers looks good if they want to reduce that horrible turnover margin from 2018. I have the Steelers winning 10 games and taking the division by virtue of a tiebreak.

Collin is a former Army Intelligence and Logistics officer who will watch any sport and gamble with anyone willing. He currently resides in Texas and has to deal with Cowboys fans all the time.