Game By Game Predictions Of Steelers Season

After falling short in the AFC Championship game last season to New England, the Steelers will soon embark upon another opportunity to win their seventh Super Bowl before any other team gets six.

Many believe that Pittsburgh’s only obstacle will be New England, yet again. They will play in week 15 this season in a game that could determine home field advantage for the playoffs, if it isn’t already.

The Steelers schedule includes six games against the AFC North, as usual. They will also play the NFC North and some other notable matchups. So, I’ll break it down game by game.

Week One (Sept. 10): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 PM

The Steelers have tortured Cleveland ever since Ben Roethlisberger came into the league. Cleveland, of course, hasn’t been all that great of a franchise lately, anyway.

After having THREE first round picks including the number one selection in which they took Myles Garrett, the Browns retooled their defense. Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku were the other two first round selections.

Couple that their selection of DeShone Kiser, the Browns have some more potential than in recent seasons but this matchup and season likely won’t favor them.

Predictions: Steelers 27, Browns 6

Week Two (Sept. 17): vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 PM

The Vikings got off to a 5-0 start last season despite the loss of star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It looked as though Sam Bradford may have rediscovered himself with his new team and was prepared to lead the Vikings on a deep playoff run.

Well, that didn’t happen.

The Vikings fell short but with additions like Latavius Murray and Riley Reiff while drafting former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Jaleel Johnson, their season, and this game should be rather exciting.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Vikings 21

Week Three (Sept. 24): at Chicago Bears, 1:00 PM

Chicago selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first round in the offseason’s draft even after signing Mike Glennon to a rather not-so-backup-quarterback-contract. The Steelers got torched on the road by a rookie QB on the road in week three last season (Carson Wentz), but that shouldn’t happen this time around. The Bears are still a pretty awful team. Yes, I have Trubisky starting by week three.

Prediction: Steelers 38, Bears 10

Week Four (Oct. 1): at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 PM

Fresh off a 3-0 start to the season, the Steelers head to Baltimore and take on their nemesis. Baltimore’s hunger to avenge Pittsburgh for the Antonio Brown Christmas magic that sealed the division victory and their home-field advantage in the game provide the boost they need to win an early season important game. Though, a very close game throughout, the defensive battle goes to Baltimore.

Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 14

Week Five (Oct. 8): vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 PM

The Steelers get the Jaguars in week five after a depressing loss the week before. They’ll take on a prettt mediocre offense that struggles to get anything going. The Steelers end up having a defensive clinic with three sacks and two interceptions in a rout of the Jaguars.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 3

Week Six (Oct. 15) at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 PM

The Steelers handled the Chiefs easily in the regular season last year and barely beat them with field goals in the playoffs. They’ve got a really good quarterback in Alex Smith and their newest draft pick in Patrick Mahomes. Their still one of the league’s premier teams. Thus, presenting one of the biggest challenges on the schedule this year. I think the Steelers get the job done.

Prediction: Steelers 28, Chiefs 17

Week Seven (Oct. 22) vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 PM

Now, maybe more exciting than Ravens games, the Bengals come to Heinz Field to impose their will on the Steelers. Head coach Marvin Lewis will do as he usually does and come oh-so-close to a victory but fall short. While the running back trio of Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and Joe Mixon will be tough to prepare for, Andy Dalton will struggle and the Bengals fall victim to the Steelers again.

Prediction: Steelers 14, Bengals 10

Week Eight (Oct. 29) at Detroit Lions, 8:30 PM

Sunday Night Football on NBC! Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford engage in a duel for the win. This is a game, if they are a plus team by week eight, that I can see the Lions winning. The Steelers are going to show up ready to play but Stafford, on a mission to prove the doubters wrong on national television in regards to his new contract, outlasts his QB counterpart and the Lions prevail in a thriller.

Prediction: Lions 38, Steelers 30

Week Nine: Bye Week

C’mon, only the Jets and Browns manage to lose to the bye week. Steelers sit at 6-2 and first place at the bye.

Week Ten (Nov. 12) at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 PM

This is a hard game to call right now. The health of Andrew Luck seems to be of question heading into the year. Whether or not he plays by this time won’t matter. The Steelers should prevail anyway. But, of the Colts want any chance at winning games this year, they’ll need him. If Luck isn’t starting, expect newly-acquired back up Jacoby Brissett to crumble against this defense. Steelers win big.

Prediction: Steelers 32, Colts 3

Week Eleven (Nov. 16) vs. Tennessee Titans, 8:25 PM

Thursday Night Football and the beginning of a four week stretch of primetime games, the Steelers face one of my more intriguing dark horses of this year, and my pick to win the AFC South, Tennessee. The Titans young QB, Marcus Mariota, is a stud in the making and has some weapons at his disposal again this season. They will make it an exciting game but one the Steelers will win. My bold prediction is that Le’Veon Bell will rush for 150 yards and have two touchdowns. Big fantasy day on Thursday to start your fantasy week out with a big lead.

Prediction: Steelers 20, Titans 18

Week Twelve (Nov. 26) vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:30 PM

Talk about a good primetime football game. Aaron Rodgers vs. Big Ben at Heinz Field. The Packers, one of my favorites heading into the year, pose a threat to the Steeler in this game. Rodgers might be considered the best QB of his generation, at least in my eyes, if he had even one more Super Bowl. He has a better skill set than Tom Brady and don’t argue with me otherwise. My man crush on Rodgers makes me hesitant to bet against him. The Packers get a win on the road.

Prediction: Packers 27, Steelers 17

Week Thirteen (Dec. 4) at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30 PM

Primetime. Steelers vs. Bengals in Cincy. I’m not even going to bother with this one.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 3

Week Fourteen (Dec. 10) vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:30 PM

Their final primetime game of the season, Pittsburgh at home against Baltimore. Ravens won the first meeting at their house. The Steelers win the latter meeting at theirs.

Prediction: Steelers 30, Ravens 17

Week Fifteen (Dec. 17) vs. New England Patriots, 4:25 PM

I shortened the last two weeks because I already previewed those teams and everyone circled this game on their calendar. “It’s going to determine home-field in the playoffs!” I’ve got news for you. No, it won’t. The Patriots are going 15-1. The consolation? The Steelers are the one. Last year, back up QB Landry Jones had to play and, honestly, looked pretty okay doing it in Foxborough and gave the Steelers a chance to win where no one ever does. The Steelers will, hopefully, have Roethlisberger and a healthy core while adding Martavis Bryant back into the mix. They’re going to be the “1” in the Patriots’ loss column and play inspired in front of their home crowd.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Patriots 20

Week Sixteen (Dec. 25) at Houston Texans, 4:30 PM

Christmas time and the Steelers will play in it again. Last year, the Christmas miracle heaved them to a division title. This season, such won’t be necessary. But, TJ Watt and JJ Watt both record 1.5 sacks trying to outdo each other. TJ’s team wins in a game where points will be hard to come by.

Prediction: Steelers 13, Texans 7

Week Seventeen (Dec. 31) vs. Cleveland Browns

Back-ups will play just as last year’s week 17. Steelers back-ups still beat Browns’ starters.

Prediction: Steelers 17, Browns 3

AFC Wild Card Round

The Steelers finish the regular season at 13-3 and get the second bye behind the Patriots. The three-seeded Raiders beat the six-seeded Bengals in round one. Fifth-seed Chiefs defeat the four-seed Titans. AFC Divisional round features the Patriots vs. Chiefs and Raiders vs. Steelers.

AFC Divisional Round

Man, this will be a fun game for me to watch as I am a fan of Oakland. As I will undoubtedly root for the Steelers, it will be exciting to watch Derek Carr and Roethlisberger battle it out. The Raiders potent offense will show. But, their suspect defense ends up being their demise. Watch out, though. 2018 could seriously be their year. Patriots handle the Chiefs easily.

Prediction: Steelers 38, Raiders 28

AFC Championship Round

Here is your rematch, folks. It is, yet again, in Foxborough. Remember, the Pats don’t lose there. It won’t change here. The Steelers pulled out a huge victory in week 15 but the Patriots and Tom Brady will get the best of the Steelers again. It sucks to say it. Want more consolation, though? The Seahawks will revenge the Patriots in the Super Bowl from the Pete Carroll decision to pass on the two yard line.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Steelers 20

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Steelers Trade Coates to Browns

The Steelers have quite the conundrum at receiver, but they just made their choices a bit easier. 

The Steelers traded Sammie Coates to the Cleveland Browns for the Browns 6th round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Coates, a 3rd round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, had quite a bit of an inconsistent career with the Steelers. He was given ample opportunity last season with Martavis Bryant sitting the entire season under suspension. Coates showed some signs of strong play early on, but Coates dealt with multiple fractured fingers throughout the year. 

On the surface, it looks like the Steelers see potential in other receivers on the roster, as they’re trying to cut their roster down to 53 men, which they have until 4:00 pm on Saturday to do so. Coates will get a fresh start in Cleveland, being part of a receiver group not nearly as deep or talented. 

Steelers Extend GM Kevin Colbert

In the wake of two significant moves that have upgraded areas of need, the Steelers have given General Manager Kevin Colbert a contract extension through the 2020 NFL Draft. Colbert is entering his 18th season as the Steelers GM. He indicated he didn’t want to go anywhere, and now he’s locked up to be the team’s main architect for at least two decades. 

Colbert deserves praise, keeping the Steelers competitive year in, year out for his entire tenure. The one losing season he’s had led to the Steelers having a good draft pick the following year, in which they took Ben Roethlisberger. Well worth it. 

In recent years, he’s had to rebuild the defense, and has managed to keep the team competitive in the process. And now, the defense is on the verge of being very good again.

The Steelers are the best positioned for a Super Bowl run than they have been since 2010. He’s built a high-octane offense, rebuilt the defense, and recently, has made moves to sure up the secondary. He’s even made moves that go outside the Steelers’ norm, like paying significant money for Joe Haden

All in all, good move for the Steelers here. Colbert’s been one of the more outstanding GM’s of his time. An extension for him isn’t a surprise, it’s quite the status quo. 

Tight End Improvement; Steelers Acquire Vance McDonald

Vance McDonald was traded to the Steelers from the 49ers on Tuesday. The trade sent McDonald and a 5th round pick to Pittsburgh, while the Steelers sent back a 4th round pick. It’s a win-win for both sides. The Steelers strengthen a weak position and get a 5th round pick, meanwhile only giving up a 4th round pick. All in all, its a low-cost risk for the Steelers. Here are his stats from his time in San Francisco with the 49ers:

His stats don’t show much, but he is a reliable target to add into this team. But remember, that he played with average quarterbacks at best. Players like Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Neither of the two are franchise quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger. His stats should continue to rise as he enters into this explosive offense. As for his blocking, it could use some work. He isn’t the strongest blocker (like Jesse James), but he can grow into it. He is strong at the point of attack and just has to work on his leverage. He is still young and maybe he will be Ben’s new Ferrari.

McDonald is the next man up when it comes to finding a suitable replacement to Heath Miller. Heath has been retired for years now and thus far the Steelers haven’t found an answer. We shall see if McDonald is the answer, but he provides a vertical threat to the already productive offense. He will have to learn a lot of the scheme in little time to be productive.

Only time will tell if McDonald is the answer at tight end. He comes at a cap hit at around $3 million. If he plays well and is effective, then it’s worth it. But asserted before, only time will tell if he is. If he isn’t, then the saga continues for finding a new tight end, which will probably be on top of the Steelers draft list. McDonald does, however, has a chance in front of him, so he better take it.

Steelers Sign Haden; Get Excited, Don’t Expect a Savior

The Steelers have signed former Cleveland first round pick Joe Haden to a 3-year contract worth $27 million, $7 million guaranteed in 2017. There’s been a lot of hype around Haden since trade rumors swirled when the Browns were trying to get something in return for the Pro Bowl corner, and the Steelers have been in the mix since then. Now with him added to the secondary, it might look on the surface that the Steelers’ secondary issues might be fixed. 

Take a look again. 

Understand that the Browns straight up cut Haden. This is a guy who was once known as one of the premier cornerbacks in the league. The Browns have made many bad moves over the years, but no one is that stupid. There’s a reason they were first trying to trade him, then when no offers would suffice, they cut him. They’re eating $4 million. There’s a reason, if not a few reasons, Haden was cut.

Haden’s had a number of health issues over the past two seasons, including tearing both groin muscles last season. With his health being a constant issue, the Browns were having over $11 million of their team not playing consistently. They have younger guys they want to have a crack at playing time that they believe in, and Haden’s eating a lot of their payroll without being on the field more times than not. 

Haden’s production, and overall play for that matter, has fallen off a cliff. After being a back to back Pro Bowl corner in 2013-2014, his play has suffered significantly. Here’s a look at how Pro Football Focus has ranked him over the years:


Haden’s value couldn’t be any lower. He’s dropped off at an alarming rate and it isn’t a wonder why offers didn’t come pouring in when the Browns put him on the trade block.

So, why take the risk? Why pay him almost $30 million when he’s been so bad recently? Haven’t the Steelers already tried the Browns leftovers with Justin Gilbert?

First, to compare Haden to Gilbert is an insult. Gilbert has never been elite. Haden has. Second, he’s shown what he can do when healthy. He’s a premier corner. Now, most likely, his best days are behind him. The explosiveness isn’t there like it was and he’s never been a blazing fast guy. The Steelers don’t need Haden to be who he was. If the Steelers believe in Artie Burns, he should still be number one on the depth chart. Haden can slot in nicely across from him as the number two corner. When healthy, Haden is better than Ross Cockrell or Coty Sensabaugh. The Steelers’ zone coverage schemes might also benefit Haden more, since he won’t be asked to do as much man-to-man press coverage. It might keep him healthy, make him more durable and more productive. And who knows, maybe he could find a shade of his former self and give the Steelers at least one year of quasi-elite cornerback play.

There’s reason to be excited about Haden coming to Pittsburgh. He can contribute nicely and definitely gives the secondary more depth, which they drastically needed. He’s not a savior, though. Don’t expect him to be. Haden is a nice fit and should definitely contribute to the secondary’s success.

Cornerback Conundrum

For the Steelers, finding some sort of solidification in the secondary has been a problem since guys like Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, and Ryan Clark graced their defensive backfield. Now, there is no indication of who will even be amongst the cornerback group when the season opens in Cleveland in less than two weeks.

The safeties are pre-determined. Mike Mitchell is the team’s free safety, assuming he returns from injury in time. He has never missed a game in his Steelers tenure. Opposite of him, Sean Davis, entering his sophomore season in the league, will be the team’s strong safety. This was the tandem last year and it was a solid one that helped lead Pittsburgh to an AFC Championship game.

Outside of Artie Burns, the cornerback situation isn’t so prepared.

With every training camp, there are young guys and veterans who battle for spots in the starting eleven on defense. In Steelers camp this season, it’s been the younger guys stepping up at the cornerback position while some long tenured veterans may lose their starting job and, quite possibly, their roster spot.

Ross Cockrell has had a horrific camp and has looked outmatched in the Steelers’ three preseason games to date. He was burned on a sure touchdown so he committed a defensive pass interference to try and prevent it. He was later beat on a downfield sideline pass. He looks very ill-composed and doesn’t have the foot speed necessary to stick with the athletic wide receivers of today’s NFL.

Another Steelers cornerback, William Gay, could soon find his roster spot taken from beneath him. Gay, 32, was the team’s slot cornerback last season and was the number one guy until Burns’ emergence in his rookie season last year. Now, Gay is battling offseason acquisition Coty Sensabaugh for that spot. Sensabaugh seems to be winning the battle.

The Steelers decided to use two of their draft picks in the spring on cornerbacks to try and add some meaningful depth with a guy like Gay beginning to age and this league quickly transitioning to a passing league. The receivers are getting better so the defense must continue to produce cornerbacks who can cover these athletic freaks.

They chose Cameron Sutton in the third round, a 5’11” corner out of Tennessee. Sutton was a starter as a true freshman and had been part of the defense at Tennessee ever since. He was drafted along with his roommate at Tennessee, quarterback Josh Dobbs.

Brian Allen, the Steelers’ fifth round selection, is a tall 6’3″ and played his college ball at Utah. His college career actually marked the beginning of his transition from a wide receiver to a cornerback. He has issues with tackling but is quick for his size and could be a practice squad candidate as he learns more about how to be a cornerback.

A longshot to make the team when camp started, Mike Hilton has impressed in camp and may have done enough to take a job. If not, Hilton has been on his third team since signing with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He may get another chance somewhere after his solid contributions thus far. Or, he’ll have the chance to impress for the Steelers and make a name for himself.

While there are many questions to be answered before week one, it seems that the Steelers may have some depth at cornerback. They made it to the AFC Championship game last year with an average secondary. The Steelers have advanced one round further than the previous year the past three seasons. If you believe in liner progression, this group of cornerbacks will see you in the Super Bowl.

 

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