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How the Steelers Win Super Bowl 54

By Adam McCoy
SteelerNation.com

With two weeks until the players start reporting to Latrobe for their annual training camp, it’s time to start speculating and making some predictions.  Despite what everyone outside of Pittsburgh will tell you about Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell being gone, Le’Veon was already gone, and AB is old news.  This is a new look Pittsburgh Steelers team; cohesive and focused on one common goal: the Stairway to Seven.

But Adam, where will the offense come from?

The answer to that question is pretty simple when you take a step back.  The Steelers are blessed enough to have a future Hall of Fame player under center, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Sure, losing Antonio Brown may hurt a bit, but since 2004, Big Ben has made a living out of bringing the absolute best out of wide receivers.  Antwaan Randle El, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Mike Wallace, and Nate Washington are some of the best examples of that.  All receivers who played in Pittsburgh, left to receive their big paydays, and absolutely vanished off the face of the Earth.

Outside of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers bring a very unheralded wide receiver corp, but one that brims with talent.  You have Donte Moncrief, looking to return to his early career form when he had a healthy Andrew Luck throwing to him.  Then there’s James Washington, 2nd year player trying to prove his disappointing rookie year was an anomaly.  Then there is Ryan Switzer, 3rd year receiver coming off a quietly good year as a rotational receiver (36 rec, 253 yds, 1 TD), and looking to improve upon his 2018 numbers. The newest addition to the group is electric 3rd round pick, Diontae Johnson out of Toledo. Though expected to mostly make an impact on special teams, he has the ability to connect with Ben for some big plays when called upon.  Let’s not forget about Eli Rogers who looks to return to his 2016 form where he hauled in 48 receptions for 594 yards and 3 TD’s from the slot receiver spot. Needless to say, Big Ben has enough weapons to have another 5,000-yard season.

The tight-end group is weak other than the man behind “The Stiff-Arm Heard Round the World,” Vance McDonald.  Xavier Grimble who has only seen over 10 receptions and 100 yards once in his career, and unproven rookie Zach Gentry, make up the supporting staff.

Lead by Pro Bowl running back James Conner, the young running back trio has the potential to be one of, if not the best running back group in football.  It’s no secret what James Conner can do as he ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, while adding 497 receiving yards and a touchdown to that.  Last year, everyone knew Conner could run, but it was his play in the passing game that really surprised everyone.  Jaylen Samuels on the other hand was a guy they knew could make an impact in the passing game.  Though he didn’t see much playing time until the end of the season, he made the most of it, showcasing his talents in a dominant performance against the New England Patriots.  Then there is rookie Benny Snell out of Kentucky.  Snell instantly became a fan favorite at rookie mini-camps and the team’s voluntary workouts in interviews, and because of his work ethic.

Finally, a group that needs no praise, the offensive line should be just as good as they were last year, only giving up 24 sacks.  This is a unit that has 13 Pro Bowl appearances and four 1st Team All-Pro’s as a collective unit.  The only question mark is the new starting right tackle, Matt Feiler, who saw 11 starts last year.

That sounds good, but what about defense?

Gone are the days of the “Steel Curtain” and the dominate Steelers defense of the late 2000’s-early 2010’s, led by players such as Troy Polamalu, James Farrior, and Brett Keisel, a defense that stifled opponents.  Instead, we’ve seen a transition, albeit slow one, to a team with some core veterans, but a lot of younger talent to compliment it.  Despite being a defense with a few question marks, they finished the year 6th in yards against, 10th in passing yards against, 6th in rushing yards against, and led the league with 52 sacks.

The ugly stat is the -11-turnover differential, good for 5th worst in the league, and being the 29th ranked team in turnovers.  For being a Super Bowl hopeful team, to put it bluntly, those aren’t numbers that win championships.  The biggest question that has been in heads of Steelers executives is how to fill the hole left in the defense by Ryan Shazier.

Like all good teams, the Steelers assessed the situation, and acted accordingly.  The hole at middle linebacker?  Plugged not only by free agent signing Mark Barron, but also Devin Bush, a player the Steelers traded up for to draft (something they haven’t done since they traded up to draft Troy Polamalu). I expect Bush to be able to take over the starting linebacker spot opposite of the reliable veteran, Vince Williams.  Barron gives the Steelers a good rotational option and could even see some time as an extra safety if the Steelers choose to play him so.

What about the turnovers you ask? Enter Steven Nelson.  A young player in his own right, 26-year-old Steven Nelson was the Steelers big splash play this year in free agency.  Coming off a career-best season that saw him hauling in four interceptions, Nelson should add a dynamic to the Steelers defense we haven’t seen yet, a strong corner playing opposite of Joe Haden.  With Haden and Nelson on the outside and assuming he signs a contract, Mike Hilton as the slot corner, creates a unit that could rival some of the best in the NFL.

The two starting safeties, Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis, are two players I expect to see take big jumps in the pass game.  The days of Mike Mitchell seem like a past and distant nightmare, but last year was Sean Davis’ first year as our starting free safety.  The main improvement I saw was better tackling, and seemingly better coverage from his position (with two dropped interceptions).  Terrell Edmunds was a surprise first round pick, and a surprise starter when Morgan Burnett spent most of the season injured.  What most impressed me with Edmunds was the visible growth you could see him go through, almost week to week.  With a year starting experience and a full off-season, I’m excited to see what Edmunds can do.

Outside linebacker is a position that brings as much excitement as it does controversy.  On one end, you have budding superstar T.J. Watt.  Watt has all the makings of a future DPOY and potential Hall of Famer.  In just his second season in the league, Watt finished with 13 sacks, good for 8th in the league, and 68 tackles to go along with that.  Expect to see Watt continue on this meteoric rise.  And then on the other side, you have Bud Dupree.  A first-round pick that hasn’t quite lived up to that tag, was picked up on his 5th year option by the Steelers, making him the 3rd highest paid player on the team (yes, that’s a real thing).  Despite the underwhelming stats, Dupree seemingly took a step in the right direction last year, and the Steelers organization must have faith that he will be able to take another step.  Behind him is one player that is itching to get his chance, Ola Adeniyi.  The second-year undrafted free agent dominated in the preseason last year, but found himself on the IR to start the season and spent most of the season on it.  The Steelers chose to keep him around, and for good reason.

Finally, we go to what is still the strongest unit on this defense, the line.  Lead by captain and veteran Cam Heyward, their fearless leader has accumulated 20 sacks in the past two years.  He is 30, but don’t expect him to slow down, there will still be time for us to watch Heyward bully back opposing offensive linemen.  Opposite of him is Stephon Tuitt.  Not always the splashiest player, Tuitt gets the dirty work done along the line.  Tuitt thrives in run defense, and can be a threat in the pass rush, often demanding two offensive linemen.  The unit is anchored by the man with the most bad-ass nickname in football, the Gravedigger, Javon Hargrave. He has shown consistent growth in his three years, with 49 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and eight QB hits last season, all career-highs. He continues to be the most underrated player on this defensive line, but expect his name to be known a little more around the league this year.

So how does it all come together?

Big Ben comes the closest to MVP he ever has, coming second in voting to Aaron Rodgers, as he throws for a new career high 5,400 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions, also running one in for a touchdown.  JuJu breaks 1,000 again with 1,200 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.  Donte Moncrief leads the team with 12 touchdowns, proving to be a vertical and red zone threat for Ben.   Ryan Switzer, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson all break 500 yards.  On the ground, Conner runs for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns, with Snell vulturing 8 touchdowns of his own.  Samuels contributes in both the pass and run game with 500 all-purpose yards and 4 touchdowns.

For the first time since 2008, the Steelers have a defensive player of the year.  To the surprise of no one, it’s T.J. Watt who finishes with 19 sacks (4 more than his brother J.J) 4 forced fumbles, an interception, and a scoop and score. With his help, the Steelers again lead the league in sacks.  The defense doubles its interception total from last year with 16.   Devin Bush receives defensive rookie of the year as he proves to be the gel that was needed to hold the defense together.  They place Top 5 in passing and rushing yards against and are Top 10 in total takeaways.

In the AFC Championship, the Steelers meet their fated playoff rival, the evil empire themselves, The New England Patriots.  Tom Brady continues to perform his anti-aging rituals and throws for over 250 yards and 3 touchdowns.  The difference-maker isn’t a player on the field, but off.  The hole left by tight-end Rob Gronkowski allows the Steelers defense to cover more efficiently, leading to an interception in the 4th quarter by Terrell Edmunds to seal it.  Steelers win, 34-28.

For Super Bowl 54, we find ourselves with a Super Bowl 45 rematch as the Steelers face off against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. With a chip on his shoulder, Ben Roethlisberger puts on his best Super Bowl performance yet with over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns.  There is no fumble to cost the game.  The defense plays a bend but don’t break defense, but the ability to generate pressure is the difference maker as the Steelers defense sacks Aaron Rodgers 5 times.  Steelers win, 31-17.

So, there you have it.  This is how the Steelers win Super Bowl 54 and reclaim their crown as the franchise with the most Super Bowl wins.  How likely is this to happen?  Who knows?  The only thing we can do is wait patiently for that first fall kick-off.  The Stairway to Seven begins this year.

What are your thoughts on the Steelers path to Super Bowl 54? As always feel free to let us know in the comment section below!

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3 Comments

  1. Monty

    July 15, 2019 at 11:00 pm

    THE STEELERS ARE CLASS! TIME TO KICK A$$,BEEN A STEELERS FAN AS A KID,JUST WIN ANOTHER,STEELERS BROTHERS FOREVER!

  2. Lou

    July 16, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Ha lot of what if’s but I do hope they do it.

  3. Paul Tomanio

    July 16, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    No doubt,sounds right on point to me….

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