The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2020 NFL season with everything to prove, and there is an or-else feel to it.
The Steelers haven't missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons since 1998-2000, and that's put veteran coach Mike Tomlin on the spot.
Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns for his 17th season. Roethlisberger, 38, is in a division with three former Heisman Trophy-winning QBs in Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow.
The Steelers are devoid of some of the locker-room drama that clouded the past few seasons, and the schedule is set up for a fast start.
Pittsburgh added tight end Eric Ebron via free agency and Chase Claypool in the 2020 NFL Draft, so Big Ben has some new targets around JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. The defense will be a strength around a great group of linebackers that includes Devin Bush, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.
Is Pittsburgh still a playoff-caliber team? That is the question that musth have the right answer given the improvements made by other teams in the AFC North.
MORE NFL PREDICTIONS:
SN's complete 2020 standings projections & playoff picks
Steelers record prediction for 2020
- Record: 10-6
- Division: No. 2 in AFC North
- Playoffs: No. 5 seed in AFC
"The Steelers return with their elite pass-rushing and strong run-stopping defense. Their offense will go back to being balanced and pass-prolific with Ben Roethisiberger back at the helm. They can easily make this modest two-game jump, which will be enough to make the playoffs in a top-heavy AFC."
"Last year was a throw-away season because of poor quarterback play, but Roethlisberger still has to prove he can lead a top-10 offense that doesn't have Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown. The young skill-position players have talent, but can they take the next step? The defense still ranked in the top five in scoring defense, and that hinges on Watt and Dupree staying healthy. Consistent pressure from the edge is always the key in Blitzburgh."
Steelers 2020 win total, Super Bowl odds
- Win total: Over/under 9 1/2
- Super Bowl odds: +2500 (11th best)
SN has the Steelers good for 10 wins in 2020; a mark that should be attainable if Roethlisberger returns to consistent form. Pittsburgh averaged 11 regular-season victories from 2014-17.
Despite the struggles the last two seasons, the Steelers are still 7-4-1 in AFC North play. That's only a half-game behind the Ravens who are 8-4. If Pittsburgh takes care of business in those black-and-blue-contests, especially against the Bengals and Browns, then that 10-win mark will get this team back in the postseason.
The Steelers have not been to the Super Bowl since 2010. Pittsburgh went 15 seasons without a Super Bowl appearances from 1980-94.
Steelers schedule 2020
Pittsburgh has the second-easiest schedule by record in the NFL. The Steelers' opponents had a combined record of 117-139 last season. Four of the first six games are at home, too, so a fast start is possible.
That doesn't mean there will not be challenges. That includes road games at AFC playoff contenders Tennessee and Buffalo, and the standard AFC North challenges.
The Steelers will get more than enough prime-time exposure, and that starts with the Week 1 game against the New York Giants. A home game against Baltimore will be the highlight of the late-season slate, and the Dec. 21 matchup at Cincinnati could produce drama given the rivalry between the teams.
|1||Sept. 14||at Giants (MNF)||7:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|2||Sept. 20||vs. Broncos||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|3||Sept. 27||vs. Texans||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|4||Oct. 4||at Titans||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|5||Oct. 11||vs. Eagles||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|6||Oct. 18||vs. Browns||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|7||Oct. 25||at Ravens||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|9||Nov. 8||at Cowboys||4:25 p.m. ET||CBS|
|10||Nov. 15||vs. Bengals||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|11||Nov. 22||at Jaguars||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|12||Nov. 26||vs. Ravens (Thanksgiving)||8:20 p.m. ET||NBC|
|13||Dec. 6||vs. Redskins||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|14||Dec. 13||at Bills (SNF)||8:20 p.m. ET||NBC|
|15||Dec. 21||at Bengals (MNF)||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|16||Dec. 27||vs. Colts||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|17||Jan. 3||at Browns||1 p.m. ET||CBS|