(KDKA)- The Pittsburgh Steelers had a tough 2019 season. They finished 8-8 and just outside of the playoffs but, that was likely better than what could be expected considering starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week 2 and the team needed to use a combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges under center.
That left the offense in the predictable spot of being among the league’s worst, ranking 27th in points (18.2 per game), 31st in passing (186 yards per game) and 30th in rushing (3.7 yards per attempt).
But, while the offense struggled, as any team would without their star QB, the defense flourished. Spurred on by the acquisition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the unit posted a dominant season. They ranked 5th in points per game (18.9), 3rd in DVOA, and picked off the second-most passes in the league (20).
Now, Big Ben is back and the defense returns virtually all of its key pieces from a year ago. While there’s some question about Roethlisberger coming off an elbow injury, there’s really nowhere to go but up for the offense this season. All reports coming out of camp indicate Roethlisberger is feeling good and CBS Dallas sports anchor Bill Jones has him pegged for a big season.
“He is my pick for comeback player of the year,” said Jones in an interview with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston getting ready for Week 1.
In fact, expectations of a bounce back year for Big Ben has led Jones to believe that it’s possible the Steelers push for the top spot in the AFC North.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Steelers challenge the Ravens to win the AFC North this year,” said Jones. “He’s (Roethlisberger) got weapons. They’ve got a good defense.”
Before any challenges to Baltimore’s division crown can happen, the Steelers open their season with a Monday Night Football date against the New York Giants. The Giants have a new head coach in Joe Judge and are coming off a 4-12 season in 2019. While they’re expected to be better, Jones is all in on the Steelers opening up 1-0.
“I think the Steelers should be able to go in there and come away with a victory, because it just seems like the Giants are in a rebuilding mode,” said Jones. “But, again, I look for Roethlisberger to have a big year if he stays healthy.”