Trib writers offer predictions on Steelers, NFL
Have questions about the Steelers? Our staff insiders have answers.
They spent countless hours watching practice and interviewing players and coaches during training camp and the preseason.
Now, find out what they think will happen this season with the black and gold.
The Trib’s beat reporters and columnists offer their thoughts on some key questions surrounding the Steelers and NFL as the regular season gets underway:
What will the Steelers record be?
Chris Adamski: 10-6, and the half-game better than last season will be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Tim Benz: 9-7 … second wild card.
Kevin Gorman: 11-5.
Joe Rutter: 10-6. A slight improvement on 2018, and that should be good enough for a return to the playoffs.
Who will be the biggest surprise contributor on offense?
Adamski: Jaylen Samuels might sneak into the top three of the team in yards from scrimmage.
Benz: Jaylen Samuels.
Gorman: TE Xavier Grimble. He’ll exceed his career numbers (22 catches for 236 yards, three touchdowns).
Rutter: James Washington. He has displayed more poise and confidence than he did last year and could emerge as the second-best receiver on the roster.
Who will be the biggest surprise contributor on defense?
Adamski: Artie Burns (remember him?) will end up with a larger-than-expected role.
Benz: Javon Hargrave.
Gorman: Cameron Sutton, Steelers most versatile defensive back.
Rutter: Stephon Tuitt. More has been expected from the massive defensive end. This is the year he lives up to the big contract he got two years ago.
What is the Steelers’ biggest question mark?
Adamski: Depth at tight end and safety after Vance McDonald and Terrell Edmunds, respectively.
Benz: Passing-game cohesiveness without Antonio Brown.
Gorman: Donte Moncrief. Could be a difference-maker or disappointment.
Rutter: Experience at tight end. The Steelers tried to get a veteran after roster reductions. The quest will continue throughout the year.
What rookie not named Devin Bush will have the biggest impact?
Adamski: Diontae Johnson is the obvious answer, but if Ulysees Gilbert gets a chance, you’ll notice him.
Benz: Kameron Kelly.
Gorman: Ulysees Gilbert, mostly on special teams.
Rutter: Diontae Johnson. The Steelers kept only five receivers, so he’ll get playing time. He also could emerge on special teams.
Who faces the most pressure this season?
Adamski: With free agency on the horizon, Bud Dupree and Sean Davis have a lot of money at stake.
Benz: JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Gorman: Ben Roethlisberger. After leading the NFL in attempts, completions, passing yards and interceptions, his leadership was called into question this offseason. Can Big Ben lead the Steelers back to the Super Bowl?
Rutter: Mike Tomlin. Missing the playoffs for a second year in a row would turn up the heat on Tomlin and raise questions about his future as head coach.
Who is poised for a breakout season?
Adamski: Stephon Tuitt, at long last, goes from good NFL defensive lineman to a truly dominant season.
Benz: Terrell Edmunds.
Gorman: Terrell Edmunds. Started last season out of necessity, this season by design.
Rutter: Terrell Edmunds. He knows the landscape after playing so many snaps as a rookie. That will fast-track his development.
What will be the most disappointing loss?
Adamski: Week 12 at Cincinnati is scary: Thanksgiving week, sandwiched between games vs. Browns.
Benz: One of the Browns games.
Gorman: Losing at Browns on Thursday night, Nov. 14.
Rutter: At Arizona, Dec. 8: A December trip to the desert sandwiched between two home games is a recipe for disaster.
What will be the biggest win?
Adamski: Either the first or last week (at New England or Baltimore). They need to get one of them.
Benz: The Rams.
Gorman: Beating the Browns on Dec. 1 at Heinz Field.
Rutter: At Los Angeles Chargers, Oct. 20: The Steelers never play well on the West Coast, but this one is in prime time, which should bring out their best.
What will be the order of finish in the AFC North?
Adamski: Steelers, Browns, Ravens, Bengals. The top three will be in the playoff race in Week 17.
Benz: Browns, Steelers (second wild card), Ravens (first team out), Bengals.
Gorman: Steelers, Browns, Ravens, Bengals.
Rutter: Steelers, Browns, Ravens, Bengals.
Who will win the AFC?
Adamski: Full list of QBs who have beaten the Patriots in the AFC playoffs since 2013: Peyton Manning. So, Patriots.
Rutter: Chargers. They need to get past the Chiefs, but Los Angeles finally will get Philip Rivers to the big game.
Who will win the NFC?
Adamski: How about Miles Sanders as Offensive Rookie of the Year helping the Philadelphia Eagles do it?
Rutter: Eagles: Saints and Rams also will be in the running.
Who will win the Super Bowl?
Adamski: I don’t have the courage to pick the Cowboys, so I’ll say the Patriots. Silly not to.
Rutter: Eagles: The pieces are in place for a second championship in three years.